This is how a women's shelter and the municipality secure school attendance
Several of the Council of Europe's expert group GREVIO's recommendations to Sweden deal with a strengthened children's rights perspective, including in sheltered housing. Children who live in sheltered housing must, for example, be allowed to continue attending preschool and school. Better routines and stronger collaboration are in demand. In a medium-sized city, there is now a collaboration between a women's shelter and a municipality to ensure that school attendance is secured.
Describe your work with a strengthened children's rights perspective, how does the routine for secured schooling work?
The women's emergency room:
–We have appointed special children's coordinators on call to strengthen the children's perspective. Before, all staff worked with both the women and the children. With coordinators who focus specifically on the children, it is easier to see and prioritise the children's needs and the children's best interests.
–Regarding secured schooling, there is an action plan drawn up by the municipality. It shows who contacts whom and who does what. Regarding school and preschool, we are promised places within a reasonable time from when the children arrive at the women's shelter. At a start-up meeting, we go through a template, are there any additional risks, what should the staff do if something happens, and so on. It creates security and safety.
–Even though it may be a very short period before the family is eventually cleared or for other reasons has to move again, the cooperation works very well. The school works on and takes it as it comes, we experience a high degree of flexibility regarding times, number of places and meeting different needs. They also care about solving practical things, such as bus tickets, regardless of the fact that the school does not know how far the children have to go to school. Those who work with this really see that the children's needs and rights must be met. Cooperation between several different activities is important so that the children's whereabouts are not revealed. In the case of shorter placements when the children do not have time to start school during their stay at the women's shelter, social services usually help bring homework to the child from the current school.
What challenges have you seen in the work?
The women's emergency room:
–A challenge is when we have children who we don't know if they should stay or move on, while the social services do a risk assessment. We cannot start schooling that lasts a week - but it ends up with the children staying, so they may have waited three weeks unnecessarily. Another big problem is that medical records can reveal the mother and the children, because a father as guardian has the right to see it, for example via 1177. We may have to avoid taking the children to the dentist because it cannot be withheld from the other parent. It creates problems when these children cannot get dental care on the same terms as other children simply because their parent is violent.
–Just being able to have a fairly normal routine in everyday life is of course fundamental, that the children can go to school and the mother gets an important relief. But even if the collaboration works very well, of course nothing is optimal for the children in a situation like this - it's more about putting plasters on big wounds. And at school, difficult situations arise all the time to deal with and take a stand on; can the child go on excursions, on a class trip, be in the school photo - "ordinary" situations that need to be considered and carefully considered on each occasion.
–It is important to review routines often, we need to do that again now to make sure that we have really covered all aspects, that the instructions are clear for everyone involved. Not least for the staff at the schools.
What success factors have you seen?
The women's emergency room:
–These elaborated routines are super important and that they are at this level; that the municipality has adopted an action plan. It will be a security for us that it is formalized and does not become personal. It has also been important that there were and are people and management in the right place in the municipality who worked this out, who took responsibility, who wanted to learn about violence - that there is no fear - and that you take the time to sit down into the questions. It is also about how the staff at the school and preschool have adopted the routines.
–In conversations with other women's shelters, it becomes clear that there are municipalities that think completely the opposite and that shirk responsibility. Some have to call around to all the schools to try to get a place. A worked-out routine also means that there is a knowledge and understanding of the businesses involved. It is important that we do not have to train again every time.
–A routine is good to establish, from both sides. So that both the accommodation, the school and the preschool know how to handle the issue. That's number one. The second is that the preschools and schools must be really good at handling protected personal data. And understand that if you live in protected housing, you must be treated as if you have protected personal data.
–To avoid a situation where the women's shelter has to sit and look for places, make sure to have designated schools. You need to have an input in the municipality that distributes school placements. It should not be the accommodation's business, a school municipality must be able to serve that quickly.
What tips would you like to give to others who wish to start a similar way of working?
The women's emergency room:
–To get political decisions, get it formal and make common cause for the good of the children. The school can also push forward in this matter, from its side.
–Until there is an established routine, the personal meeting is so important. That the women's emergency came and told us why we should have this, then there was no doubt with us.
–It is also important that as few as possible know that the children live protected. Therefore, remember to carefully work through routines and think about details. An example; in a municipality you have to know how to call from a hidden number, an area code can reveal too much.
Open comparisons about municipalities' women's rights work
Every year since 2012, the National Board of Health and Welfare and Sweden's municipalities and regions (SKR) carry out so-called open comparisons about the municipalities' support for crime victims. The results for 2020 showed, among other things, that relatively few municipalities, 21 percent, have an up-to-date, written and management-level decided routine for how administrators should ensure that children who are in sheltered accommodation are allowed to go to school.
Open comparisons of violence in intimate relationships, the National Board of Health and Welfare's website
The Istanbul Convention and GREVIO's recommendations to Sweden: support and protection
By ratifying the Istanbul Convention, Sweden has undertaken to provide support and assistance to all girls and women who are exposed to violence and to prevent, prosecute and abolish all forms of men's violence against women. The provisions under the third pillar of the convention deal with the rights of girls and women exposed to violence, which must always come first. Support and help must be based on knowledge of the mechanisms, expression and consequences of violence.
GREVIO's recommendations to Sweden are about ensuring the safety and legal security of victims of violence and ensuring that perpetrators of violence are held accountable for their actions.
In order to better live up to the convention, GREVIO urges Sweden to, among other things:
Strengthen the children's rights perspective for children in sheltered housing
In order for children who live in sheltered accommodation to receive the support they are entitled to and to be able to continue attending school, more resources and joint routines based on the rights of the child are needed, among other things.
Strengthen efforts for victims of violence across the country
In order to be able to meet each person's total need for support and help, the coordination of the interventions that victims of violence may come into contact with must be improved.
Publication date: 28 July 2022
Last updated: 25 November 2022