Presidential message to the Federal Assembly on children
'I think it is vital that we have an effective state policy on children. This should be up to date and correspond to national development needs. That is why in the present message I devote the greatest attention to this theme and particularly stress that in my view new decisions and approaches are needed'. These words appeared on the official site of the president of the Russian Federation.
Mr Medvedev declared that it was essential to develop the 'birth certificate' programme, which is a restorative system for children having a low body mass who are newly born or in their first three years of life. He also focused on the need to increase government support for the infertility treatment programme. He said that not less than 25% of the total resources allocated for health modernisation would be spent in 2011 on the development of children's medicine. It could amount to 100 billion rouble over two years, he added. Mr Medvedev commented that two thirds of teenagers had problems with their health and charged government departments with providing more clinics. He also drew attention to the need for early diagnosis of tuberculosis, cancer and other diseases amongst the young.
Furthermore, Mr Medvedev mentioned that many Russian foundations and the media organise collections for children sufffering from serious illnesses. Well known businessmen were donors. 'This is not the first year that we have improved the legislation on charitable activities but problems still persist. For example, recurring charitable help for a child, even one who is seriously sick, is included in the parents' tax liability. This is inequitable. Resources received from a charitable organisation for child support ought to be totally excluded from the calculation of taxable income', he emphasised. The president looks forward to an appropriate law being enacted by the State Duma (parliament) of the Russian Federation shortly.
With the aim of improving the demographic situation in the country, he charged the Russian government together with the regions with working up a process for providing free parcels of land for the construction of houses or dachas (cottages) on the birth of a third or subsequent child.Furthermore, the White House was to prepare proposals for the preferential tax treatment of families with children.For families with three or more children Mr Medvedev proposed raising the tax exemption to 3,000 roubles.
Recollecting that at the beginning of the year one and a half million children were on the waiting list for nursery places, he charged the regional authorities with implementing porgrammes for reconstructing old nurseries and building new ones or making premises available.
He said that the guardianship agencies should engage with family structures and 'help' foster families. He also spoke about the need to create guardianship councils in corrective establishments, the implementation of socialisation programmes and to put in place mentoring arrangements for those leaving orphanages.
The president also mentioned the need to prevent violence against children, to encourage an attitude of intolerance towards child abuse and to identify and prevent recurrences and so on.
The presidential ombudsman for children's rights, Pavel Astakhov, called the president's message 'a plan for action to protect children'. 'The president of Russia has accurately pinpointed the national threat looming over Russia in the next 15 years, which results from the demographic downturn of the nineties and the reduction in the number of women of child bearing age. On the most optimistic estimates the number of children will diminish year on year by 250-300,000. By 2025 there will be only 22 million children in Russia; currently there are 26 million. If the problem is not tackled decisively, the number will be less – perhaps 18 million' he said. However, he added that the last national child protection plan was adopted in 1995.
'We are very pleased that Mr Medvedev has drawn the attention of the legislators to the taxation of charitable assistance! We are now confident that this question will be resolved at last. We have long awaited this, and a speedy resolution of the problem is very important for those in our charge', said the founder of the charitable foundation Podari Zhizn (Give Life), Chullan Khamatova, in response to the announcement about the taxation problem. Ekaterina Chistyakova, the foundation's programme director, thought that any charitable assistance for medical treatment of children (paying for treatment abroad or payment for the utilisation of registers of bone marrow donors and medicines bought abroad that are not registered in Russia) should be exempted from taxation. The amendments to the taxation code formerly proposed by the ministry of finance did not take into account all the varieties of charitable help. 'Tomorrow we will send the Duma our own amendment proposals. I am pleased that the president is on our side', commented Ms Chistyakova.
The first presidential ombudsman for children's rights, Aleksei Golovan, considers that the president's message sent many of the right 'signals'. However, he feared that they would not be acted upon because no one had been made responsible for delivery. Furthermore, many of the president's proposals required greater expenditure than was allowed for in the budget, particularly the grant of plots of land on the birth of a third child.