Progress for Roma families - Academic conference and the launch of the Kapocs periodical’s thematic issue

There was a regime change for Roma issues in 2010, at which time the government began to build a work-based society in place of the previous hand-out based one, said Attila Sztojka, Government Commissioner for Roma Relations, at a conference in the Mária Kopp Institute for Demography and Families (KINCS). The event also saw the launch of a thematic issue of the KINCS magazine Kapocs, this issue focusing on Roma families.

Attila Sztojka, speaking at the event entitled Progress for Roma families, said that in 1990, the Roma were the biggest losers of the regime change, with most of them losing their jobs at that time. Unfortunately, government programmes did not focus on creating jobs. In 2010, however, the government brought a completely new approach striving to involve Roma in an active, work-based society instead of relying on passive, government hand-outs and allowances. According to Attila Sztojka, Hungary has the highest employment rate for Roma in Europe, with 81% of Roma men employed compared to the European average of 58%, and 44% and 28% respectively for women. He said that the most important task for the government in the next period is to continue to treat the Roma issue as a resource and to turn the yet unused Roma labour force into an economic player. The fight against poverty in Hungary has started moving in the right direction, but the continuation of EU funding, which the country does not have access to "not for professional but for political reasons", would be very important, said the Government Commissioner.

Tünde Fűrész, president of KINCS, spoke of how the Hungarian Roma community is a valuable and important resource for Hungarian society, and that Roma families are as much the winners of work-based family policy as other Hungarian families, noting how the poverty indicators and housing conditions of Roma families have improved significantly. She mentioned that they had looked at the application rate of the ‘CSOK’ (housing subsidy) or the ‘baby expecting allowance’ in developing townships and found that the application rate was the same as the national rate. However, there are different trends in childbearing compared to the national average," she said. She added that, at the same time, the gap between childbearing Roma and non-Roma women narrows as level of education increases.

Mrs Mónika Radomszki, Deputy State Secretary for Social Inclusion at the Ministry of the Interior, said that the 2011 social inclusion strategy covers all areas of life and one of its main objectives is to reduce the rate of material and social hardships among Roma families with children. The Deputy State Secretary identified the key to social inclusion as being the involvement of parents and a complex approach, and stressed the importance of an interdependent institutional system. She mentioned the "Sure Start" children's homes, the school system, the Roma vocational colleges and the ‘Take Away’ ‘Útravaló’ scholarship programme, in which more than 9,000 children participate, which not only provides financial support but also mentoring. Mrs Mónika Radomszki stressed that the government continues to support programmes for the Roma even in the current economic situation.

Zsófia Nagy-Vargha, Deputy State Secretary for Youth at the Ministry of Culture and Innovation, spoke about the importance of talent management, which she said is a long-term and richly rewarding investment in the future. Among the government programmes, the Deputy State Secretary highlighted the National Talent Programme, which has helped thousands of young people of Roma origin over the past two years. The Snétberger Music Talent Centre in Felsőörs, Veszprém County, is a centre for talented young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and not only provides high quality music education, it also builds community, she added. She also said that some Roma youngsters have little chance to showcase their talents and this is why the Teach for Hungary programme was launched in 2018. This is a programme where young university students work with primary school children in small villages to show them the opportunities for further educational opportunities and employment.

The event also saw the launch of a thematic issue of KINCS' Kapocs magazine, focusing on Roma families. Among the topics are research on Roma girls' family planning habits, young people's school performance, talent management and care for the elderly, to name only a few. Dr. Géza Salamin, Scientific Vice-President of KINCS, said that the special feature of Kapocs – Progress for Roma Families is that it presents both academic results and data for policy makers.

The event ended with a round table discussion, in which Dr. László Ulicska, Head of the Department of the Deputy State Secretary for Social Inclusion of the Ministry of the Interior, Anikó Schanda, representative of the Hungarian Reformed Church's Roma colleges, Szilárd Lantos, from the Hungarian Maltese Charity, and head of the Developing Townships Programme and Mrs Szilvia Balogh Erős, President of the Vazdune Cherhaja Rising Stars Roma Women’s Association, discussed the important challenges facing the Roma community and the results of programmes to help them. The round-table was moderated by István Antal, research analyst at KINCS.

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