Parliamentarians from the ruling coalition, 77 of them, entered the history of the greatest shame in Croatia on Friday. They did not let the proposal of the opposition MP, Anka Mrak-Taritaš, to allow the parents – caregivers of seriously ill children to continue to receive the caregiver’s compensation, HRK 4,000, for six months after the death of the child.
Instead, these 77 politicians left in force the rule according to which parents must report to the labor exchange, i.e. return to the labor market, the very next day after the death of a child, if they want to receive income. The representatives themselves, on the other hand, are entitled to six full salaries, and another six halves of that salary after the termination of their duties. The condition for this is that they spend at least one year in the Parliament. They also have compensation for living separately, a flat salary supplement, paid subtenancy, transportation, everything… By voting against the opposition proposal, they ranked at the bottom of the civilization scale.
– I would like to remind you of those politicians who were convicted of embezzlement, theft of the state or local budget, where did they get the right to 6 plus 6 months of salary, what did they earn it from? And where is the money they stole, can it be used to cover our fees after the death of the child? It is a great injustice, huge, he will say in tears Lucija Balažić (23) from Knin.
In December, she lost her son Paul, he was three years and 11 months old, he suffered from myotubular myopathy, a severe disease that made him immobile and completely dependent on his mother’s 24-hour care. Lucija, along with another small child that the family has, dedicated her life and all her time to him. Before giving birth, as a young girl, she only worked for a short time in the catering industry, and the day after Paul’s death on December 9, she tells us, she immediately had to report to the labor market.
– On the day when I lost my child, I was also left without any income and rights, without an iota of time to recover. My husband works, but it is not enough for us to live on, we are tenants. Utilities, rent, everything is there, the very next day I had to collect papers and report to the stock exchange…, says Lucija in tears. Fortunately, she adds, the employee at the employment office was understanding and did not force her to start looking for a job right away.
– I hope that my tears will prompt those at the top to think about what they voted for. I’m young, but what about the mothers who spent 15, 20 years with their sick children, and today they are 45, 50 or even more years old – how can they immediately return to work, and to which work? All of us with the children are locked in the house, isolated, we don’t even know how to communicate with people anymore, can they ‘up there’ understand what it means for us to return to the normal world the day after the child’s death, Lucija said bitterly.
With the day of her son’s death, she became for the state, like other parents-caregivers, someone who has to find her way in the world of work at the same moment. They have no time to mourn, at the same time they have to deal with bureaucracy, broken physically and mentally. There are quite a few examples where after years and years of caring for a child, these parents become seriously ill themselves, left to their own devices.
‘They don’t let us enter the labor market, and then they force us into it’
State officials, who are entitled to 6 plus 6 salaries after leaving office, forget why they are in these positions, that is, because of whom they are in these positions, he tells us. Marica Đogaš Mikulić (38) from Slavonski Brod, mother of five-year-old Ante, who suffers from Cornelia de Lange syndrome, a genetic disease that makes the boy dependent on his parents’ 24-hour care.
Marica is another one of five thousand mothers – parents who have the status of caregivers and take care of their seriously ill children day and night. Extending the benefit for six months after the death of a child would cost the state less than five million kuna per year.
– While we are taking care of our children, the state forces us to live exclusively within its own four walls, it does not give us any opportunity, any help and support to at least partially join the labor market, and then, when our child dies, it forces us to we return that labor market immediately, the very next day, without any adjustment time. The parents are not able to do that, they are destroyed mentally and physically, for some, who have spent many years with the child, their occupation no longer even exists, says the mother, an economist by profession.
– How can anyone think that anyone is able to bury a child, and the next day, with a smile on his face, return to work? We live in isolation, because the state condemned us to isolation, we live with respirators, catheters and probes, we constantly listen to see if our child is breathing. And then when he is gone, we suddenly have to return to the people, and to the labor market, says Marica.
Caring parents only have annual vacation and sick leave on paper, the reality is completely different. If they themselves become seriously ill, the sick child they care for around the clock can be placed in an institution, but even then there is a wait, there is often no room, especially if the case is urgent. Mother Marica, active in the association Sjena, which unites parents of seriously ill children, says that they have cases where parents from chemotherapy return home early because there is no one to take care of their children.
Slavery contract with the state without any rights
– There are about five thousand of us parents, but I don’t know that anyone has ever used the sick leave option, adds the mother. He adds, foster parents are forced to “sign” practically slave-owning contracts with the state, according to which they do not have work status, are not creditworthy, and are forced back into the labor market immediately after the death of the child.
– Six months with paid compensation is the minimum we ask for. Traumas remain while the parent is alive, but at least to give us half a year to recover and adjust to returning to the world. A parent whose healthy child suddenly dies or dies can take sick leave, we don’t have it, concludes Marica. With a seriously ill child, she has no time for herself, she is so busy with little Anto that she couldn’t even remember her age when we asked her. Caring parents do not have a life of their own.
The state does not provide them with help in taking care of the child, let alone so much help, thanks to which they could work, for example, part-time. And if they have accumulated some work experience before taking care of the child, they have to choose whether to receive a pension or child benefit, they cannot receive both.
– All that the state has done for us is to throw us on the margins of society, and make us social cases. Worst of all, however, is that there are no programs for our children through which they could realize their potential. Our compensation is not adjusted to the base, just as salaries and pensions are adjusted to inflation, the mother is outraged. He also adds that not all five thousand parents would use the compensation for six months at once, perhaps thirty parents per year – these amounts would be almost symbolic for the state.
“Parents sacrificed themselves to make our lives better”
– I feel terribly sad for the parents who gave their whole lives for us – children and people with developmental difficulties and disabilities, sacrificed their jobs and careers for us, so that we could become successful people, she said on Friday after the shameful vote of the majority of representatives in the Parliament Laura Soče (24), fourth-year theology student. She suffers from cerebral palsy and is completely blind, but despite this she is a successful student.
– And when something like that happens to them, the worst period in their life, the death of their child, they have no support from the institutions. We tell them – just do it, but we don’t give up. We are fighters who always fight for our rights, Laura told the politicians of the ruling majority. Journalists also cried at her words, and only they know if any of the politicians of the ruling coalition were ashamed of their decision.
One thought on “Croatia | ‘My son died, the very next day I had to report to the stock exchange. And the politicians? They have 6 full salaries!’”
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