Human Rights Action (HRA) warns of the Montenegrin Government policy to use funds intended for social protection of the most vulnerable population categories for other purposes. On Thursday, 22 October 2015, the Government adopted a conclusion allowing the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to direct one-off social aid funds amounting 130,000 euros to the Government’s Commission for solving housing issues of the Ministry’s employees. The adopted conclusion lacks reasoning, and the reasoning of this proposal informing the public on the reasons for such decision has not been made available neither at the Government’s nor at the Ministry’s webpage.
In the last year nearly one million euros planned for social, veterans and disability protection programme have been redirected from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. The Ministry redirected 400,000 EUR to Montenegrin National Tourism Organization in September 2014 for „promotion and impact on tourist product programme“, and in late January 2015 the Ministry has again with the same goal redirected another 400,000 EUR.
This last redirecting of social aid funds is yet another step away from the implementation of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recommendations to Montenegro from December 2014 to increase the amount of social benefits and provide an adequate standard of living for socially vulnerable people, especially the unemployed, the elderly and persons with disabilities, to establish shelters for the homeless and properly solve the problem of people who are forced to live in psychiatric hospital at Dobrota because they have nowhere else to go. In Montenegro a four-member family with two children receives social aid amounting 146.00 euros (material family aid 108 euros + financial aid for children 19 euros per child), which is below the absolute poverty line for one person (186.45 euros, MONSTAT, 2013) and covers only 18% of the minimum consumer basket for four persons which is 807 euros (value from September 2015). Personal disability allowance and unemployment benefit are also below the absolute poverty line – personal disability allowance in the amount of 108.8 euros makes 58% and cash benefits for the unemployed, which amounts to 77 euros, 41% of the amount that represents the absolute poverty line in Montenegro. Centres for Social Welfare provide one-off aid to the vulnerable in maximum amount of 10 euros. As a rule, people ask for this one-off aid in extremely difficult living circumstances, i.e. when they become homeless, have no money to buy food, medicines etc.
HRA sent a letter to the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare repeating the appeal already submitted to the previous Minister in February 2015, that the Ministry should use any surplus funds for implementation the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Human Rights recommendations, rather than to use the money intended for the poor people for funding other activities of the Government.