One of the most significant issues associated with child care in Plock is the insufficient number of kindergartens and crèches. In the case of kindergartens, as in Warsaw, this is not the problem of kindergarten places as such, but their distribution in the city. Insufficiencies are observed mostly in the dynamically developing districts further away from thecity centre , which are the preferred place of residence for young families with children, e.g. Podolszyce. In Podolszyce, the number of children aged 3-6 years registered as residents is 516; however, child care institutions offer places for 190 children (data as of March 2011). Secondly, mainly parents of 3-year-olds encounter the problem; most older children in Plock benefit from kindergarten education.
In Plock, kindergarten education at private and public kindergartens and kindergarten departments at elementary school is provided for 88 per cent, which is a very high rate in Poland (the national average is 37 per cent, which is the lowest indicator of popularisation of kindergarten education in the EU member states). It seems that insufficient supply of crèche care is a more serious problem – there are only three public crèches in the city and two non-public crèches. According to the city officials, the small number of non-public crèches is due to the fact that in the light of the legal provisions that had been in force until recently (e.g. concerning the standard of rooms, in which child care services are provided), it used to be much easier to open a kindergarten and obtain EU funds for this purpose than to open a crèche for the youngest children:
First of all, EU funds were used for the kindergartens. It is true that this boom of non-public kindergartens was due to the fact that there were funds first for the kindergarten facilities, which over time are transformed into full kindergartens. There were no such provisions for the crèches. Only the budget funds, and everyone knows that these are not sufficient to do anything. As a result, non-public kindergartens and kindergarten facilities emerged faster than some babysitting services or mini-crèches.
Focus interview, Plock,
The representative of the Department of Education and Culture, City Hall
At the same time, in the interviews conducted with the councillors, representatives of NGOs and journalists, the problem of care of the elderly was also visible. This pertains mainly to healthcare, including recognition of specific needs of the elderly in terms of healthcare and the broadly understood social support, beyond education and cultural offerings of universities of the third age:
There are few organisations that deal with healthcare of the elderly. There is the University of the Third Age. There are combatant organisations and so on, which, for instance, organise the social activities for the elderly, using their skills, engaging them in education. There are few organisations that deal with healthcare of the elderly, their problems, and their lives. Moreover, there is no overview of the situation: we don’t know how many of them are lonely, whether they need additional care or someone who would at least visit and talk to them. There are no organisations like that. As for care of the lonely, there are three organisations here, in Plock. Us (the Polish Committee for Social Assistance), the Polish Red Cross and the Foundation for the Elderly, and we are the only ones to provide care
Interview no.8, Plock, The representative of Polish Social Assistance Committee
There are two care homes in Plock1, which is insufficient because of the increase in the elderly population. Moreover, there are no social assistance homes in the city, which would provide constant institutional care of the elderly. The six public social assistance homes in the district are dispersed over smaller towns, the number of places is limited and, according to our respondents, the waiting lists are very long. The interviewees did not mention private care homes in Plock or in the surrounding area. According to one of the respondents, diversified institutional forms of care should be complementary with care provided to the elderly by their family members. Making the family exclusively responsible for care may result in illness and limitations to public control of the real situation of the elderly, who can be treated poorly by their relatives in some situations:
(…) We do not know how the elderly function in the family environment. We do not know whether they feel comfortable with the family, whether they are important to their relatives, whether there is good care, whether there are any problems, or the elderly person is there only because they receive the old age pension or disability pension and they are being abused. Sometimes, things are disclosed, but these are unusual situations, when, for instance, somebody living in the same apartment building and says this and this is happening at the home of this elderly lady, and the social worker goes there for an interview, but, in general, we don’t know about the situation of these people
Interview no.8, Plock. The representative of Polish Social Assistance Committee
The above statement indicates that no complex diagnosis has been provided for Plock with regard to the situation and requirements of the elderly inhabitants of the city. Although time-management initiatives for seniors are being implemented (such as the University of the Third Age), from which only certain groups benefit, insufficient healthcare and social support are a more serious problem.
46.1. Short description
The Plock Council of Seniors has been operating since 3 October 2012. Its members have been appointed based on the instruction of the President of the city of Plock. The Council has ten members (eight women and two men). Nine of them are active in the elderly community and represent the key institutions established to provide them with support; the tenth is a councillor representing the President of the City of Plock.
The Council is a consultative and initiative-forming body of the President of the City of Plock on affairs pertaining to persons above 50 years of age. The objective of operation of the Council is integration, supporting and representation the elderly community and influencing affairs that concern all inhabitants of Plock.
46.2. Conceptions and ways of addressing users
The detailed tasks of the Plock Council of Seniors are as follows:
- presenting proposals to define the priorities of tasks and activities on behalf of the elderly in Plock;
- initiation of undertakings aimed at social integration of the elderly and satisfying of the needs of this social group;
- engaging in activities aimed at taking advantage of the potential and time of the elderly on behalf of community initiatives, particularly in the field of culture, sports and education;
- issuing opinions on local legal acts pertaining to the situation of the elderly and affairs presented to the Council for issue of opinions by the President of the City of Plock;
- consulting on affairs concerning the elderly, in particular, with regard to social assurance, healthcare, social assistance and care;
- aiming to restore and strengthen social bonds between generations.2
Until today, in total, eight meetings of the Plock Council of Seniors have been held. During these meetings, the following topics have been discussed: social assistance with particular emphasis on support and assistance for the seniors in Plock; ability to introduce changes in the functioning of the public transport system in Plock (on the basis of analysis of results of the questionnaire conducted among the seniors in the autumn of 2012); health prevention among the seniors, planned for Plock for year 2013; possibilities of creation of a geriatric clinic in the city in the future; concepts for activation of the senior community of Plock.3
Meetings of the Plock Council of Seniors are attended by external guests, representing institutions that are of significance for the issues discussed by the Council, including the Ombudsman for the Disabled at the Municipal Office of Plock, representatives of the Polish Red Cross and the Polish Committee for Social Assistance, president of the Management Board of the Public Transport System in Plock, director of the Municipal Centre for Social Assistance, manager of the Department of Support and Social Rehabilitation at the Municipal Centre for Social Assistance, Director of the Local Office of the National Health Fund in Plock, Vice President of the Management Board of the State Healthcare Institutions and the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection.
The activities of the Plock Council of Seniors include the action “Friendly places for seniors”. It is organised by the Council and the President of the City of Plock. The main objective of this action is to promote places and institutions that are friendly to seniors, operating in Plock. Mostly, these are cultural, education, recreation institutions, cafes, shops, drugstores, public institutions and other facilities that satisfy the needs of the elderly by adapting their architecture and offering products, services and discounts for this group, and places, in which the elderly feel comfortable and well. The action is addressed to all institutions interested in obtaining the certificate “Friendly places for seniors”. Such facilities are granted the certificate and marked with a special graphic informing of the reward. The institution applying for the certificate should meet the following criteria: have an offer addressed specifically to the elderly, maintain and develop this offer, reach as many seniors as possible, provide discounts for seniors, make sure that the architecture and interior design and equipment match the needs of the elderly, be open towards the needs of the elderly and meet their expectations, become a place that is often visited by the elderly, while providing access for all age groups. The decision on granting of the certificate is made by the jury consisting of the President of the City of Plock and the Plock Council of Seniors. Visits to the places and verification of applications are dealt with by the contest commission, consisting of representatives of the Plock Council of Seniors4. So far, fifteen institutions have been granted the “Friendly places for seniors” certificate5.
According to one of the respondents, the plans of the Plock Council of Seniors include development of a programme for social activation of the elderly based on the concept of inter-generational exchange of experience, which, at the same time, will allow for diversification of child care services available in the city:
(…) The elderly, who are lonely and have a lot of time, who are healthy and able, will take care of children at home, in those families, which, for instance, are unable to send the children to the kindergarten, because, for instance, there are no vacant places. So, these persons will not only take care of the children, but they can also share their knowledge, educate, teach the children some skills that they have, which, for instance, are being forgotten, such as knitting and decorative paper cut-outs. The elderly can do many things, which we sometimes know nothing about
Interview no.8, Plock, the representative of Polish Social Assistance Committee
46.3. Internal organisation and modes of working
The Plock Council of Seniors does not have the status of a self-governing legislative body, as it performs consulting functions. The councillors of the Plock Council of Seniors are representatives of the following entities: Association of Catholic Families of the Diocese of Plock, the Polish Diabetics Association, the Polish Association of Old Age and Disability Pensioners, the Sclerosis Multiplex Association, the Association of the Children of War in Poland, Plock Association for Assistance on Behalf of Persons with Alzheimer’s Disease, the Association of Combatants and Former Political Prisoners of the Republic of Poland, the Association of the University of the Third Age in Plock, the League of Polish Women. The tenth member of the Council is a representative of the President of the City of Plock – Proxy for the Affairs of NGOs.
Members of the Plock Council of Seniors are also invited to meetings with representatives of public institutions at various levels. In April of this year, upon invitation by member of European Parliament, Danuta Hübner, the Council visited the Parliament. The visit was dedicated mainly to the activity of the Commission for Protection of Natural Environment and the Commission for Public Health and Food Safety ENVI6.
A significant aspect of operation of the Plock Council of Seniors is referring directly to the opinions of the elderly inhabitants of the city. For instance, proposals of the Council concerning changes in functioning of the public transport system have been developed on the basis of a questionnaire addressed to seniors.
46.4. Interaction with the local welfare system
The Plock Council of Seniors was appointed by the City Hall as the space for communication between the city authorities and representatives of the senior community – persons acting on behalf of the seniors are familiar with their various needs. In the light of the statement of the President of the City, the Plock Council of Seniors is also supposed to initiate solutions and activities aimed at improvement of the situation of the elderly inhabitants of Plock: “2012 is the European Year of Activity of the Elderly and Inter-Generational Solidarity. It is a great moment to appoint a Council, which will not only speak of the problems, but also propose specific solutions”7.
The Plock Council of Seniors does not deal directly with the problems listed above, which are associated with insufficient supply of healthcare for the seniors living in Plock. It differs from the former dispersed initiatives, which are mainly aimed at social activation of the elderly. The activities of the Council so far remind us, to some extent, of the projects of the MaMa Foundation in Warsaw, which has the aim of providing urban spaces that are friendly for parents with small children. During the first term of office, the Plock Council of Seniors also focused on “friendliness” and availability of various places to seniors and facilitating movement around the city. Involvement of representatives of local communities at the local authority level may contribute to the recognition of the real situation of elderly inhabitants in Plock and to the development of a systemic strategy of improvement.