Two new Flash Reports prepared by the European Social Policy Network (ESPN) are now available and provide information on the criminalisation of rough sleeping in Hungary and the amended law on maternity benefit in Serbia.
- In Hungary, a new law forbidding rough sleeping came into force on 15 October 2018 following a constitutional amendment in summer. Police officers are now allowed to order homeless people to move into shelters. If rough sleepers fail to do so after being ordered three times in a 90-day period, they can be imprisoned. Professionals and human rights advocates agree that it is important to reduce public homelessness, but emphasise that this should be done through social policy and not punitive measures. Whether or not shelters have sufficient vacancies available is an issue of fierce debate. Some homeless people choose the streets over shelters as the latter can be very crowded, unsafe and infested with bugs. Also, couples are separated and dogs not allowed.
- In Serbia, the amendments to the law on maternity benefit, which came into force in July 2018, have proven to disadvantage certain groups of mothers, such as pregnant women on sick leave, women employees having worked less than 18 months and self-employed women. Some of them are now only entitled to a monthly benefit of €9 which is well below the 2016 national at-risk-of-poverty threshold of €130.6. As a result, a petition was launched and women took to the streets to demand a fairer calculation of maternity benefit. The only official response so far has come from the President of the Population Policy Council.