Deputies to remove prohibition on chores in residential homes

Deputies (MPs) intend to remove the prohibition on residents in boarding institutions carrying out daily chores 

Moscow, 12 March 2014

The fact that there is no opportunity for residents in boarding institutions to learn the basic skills, which they need to look after themselves, hampers their socialisation when they come to leave. In order to address this problem, the deputies are minded to to lift the prohibition on residents participating in certain kinds of work. Whilst specialists support this initiative, they do note that a number of difficulties might arise.

At present the hygiene regulations do not allow residents in children’s home to cook, clean or get involved in a number of other chores independently. This frequently means that once they achieve adulthood and leave the home, they are not in a position to perform the basic tasks required for looking after themselves and their accommodation.

According to Izvestia (a newspaper) directors of boarding institutions have expressed the view that the hygiene regulations should be amended in so far as they apply to children’s homes. Their proposal will be considered during a visit by a delegation from the Duma (Parliament) committee dealing with issues relating to the family, women and children to Perm from 31 March to 2 April. Representatives of the investigative committee of the Russian Federation, of the office of the public prosecutor general and of the federal service for consumer protection and welfare rights will be discussing the subject with the deputies.

‘We face a contradictory situation. On the one hand a children’s home should teach a child how to do everything they will need to do when they grow up. On the other, the staff of a home have to answer personally for any violation of the prohibition. This contradiction needs to be resolved’, said Elena Mizulina, chair of the above Duma committee.

The director of the Izmeni Odnu Zhizn (Change One Life) fund, Yulia Yudina, observed that similar socialisation programmes had been implemented for a long time now in all family type children’s homes and in many boarding establishments. She supported the deputies’ initiative and hoped that the programmes would be sensibly constructed.

‘I do not think that the life skills programmes will have the effect of working the children to death’, said Ms Yudina. ‘They won’t normally be doing the weeding for 12 hours at the expense of lessons and leisure time. It seems to me that a balance would be maintained and standards carefully controlled.’

Meanwhile the chair of Izmeni Odny Zhizn observed that implementation of the initiative would require more investment in children’s homes by way of purchasing additional equipment and reconstituting premises. Ms Yudina thought that in that event money would again begin to be invested in structures rather than the children. She did not like the emphasis being placed on the material side of homes. She considered that it would be better to strengthen the material conditions of adoptive families. For her it was more important for the director of a home to spend their time on arranging family placements which was their main job. She understood of course that these were not mutually exclusive alternatives since it was not every child that would go to live with a family. It was important for those who remained in a home to learn how to manage. But it was not desirable that this should become the priority.

The director of Deti Nashi (Our Children) Varvara Penzova was also concerned about the issue of organising the necessary work areas. She considered that it was necessary to give some thought to what would happen in practice. If new hygiene regulations were adopted, would institutions then be left to get by as best they can? There would be a deal of reorganisation involved costing a great deal because refurbishing and refitting premises was extremely expensive, always amounting to millions. She was also sure that if the delegates’ initiative were to be implemented properly it would be necessary to contemplate changes to teachers’ working hours.

‘When we reorganise a group from a children’s home along family lines, we alter the carer’s workload. They have to be with a group of children of different ages all the time just like a parent. But in the past no-one has provided the budget to pay for the extra hours. The result is that a benefactor pays. Currently the carer works half a day and is then free. If certain changes are made to the hygiene regulations, that person would have to spend more time at work. If they are to be working continually with the children every day continually, then their salary ought to change and where is the money to be found?’ asked Ms Penzova.

At the present time in Russia preparations are underway for all boarding institutions to function along family lines in future. The president of the Volontery v Pomoshch Detyam-Sirotam (Parentless Children’s Voluntary Aid Foundation) Elena Alshanskaya believes that         the proposal to amend the hygiene regulations was made in the context of that general process.

‘Whilst particular amendments are under discussion, it seems to me that they will turn out to form a package complementing the new approach once this is accepted in principle. This will allow children to live more normally rather than being prohibited from washing their own cup or from buying food and cooking it accompanied by their carer. Our children’s homes often resemble a military establishment where the inmates are drilled and the authorities are watchful for attempts at escaping or perhaps a large hospital where doing anything at all is prohibited. The hygiene regulations seem to me to be out of date. There is nothing like them in Europe or the USA’, said Ms Alshanskaya.

Author: Darya Shapovalova

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