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00 of “We do not need networks, we need institutions”

The eminent psychiatrist and Director of the Mental Health and Social Welfare Department of the Institute of Child Health insists that what is most urgent in the Greek child protection system is for it to be reorganised into an autonomous sector.

Mr Nikolaidis on the balcony of his office, at the Institute of Child Health's Department of Mental Health and Social Welfare, Athens

Mr Nikolaidis on the balcony of his office, at the Institute of Child Health’s Department of Mental Health and Social Welfare, Athens

© The Manifold

A few years ago, the Institute’s Department of Mental Health and Social Welfare created certain tools to link the various services dealing with child abuse. Can you tell us more about that?

We had created a national protocol for the diagnosis and verification of reported or suspected child abuse or neglect. The necessity for such a tool arose from previous studies, as well as the widely acknowledged experiential findings of professionals working on the front-line that, in Greece, from the moment the suspicion that a child is being abused arises, a number of different professionals usually become involved, looking into it and doing different things at different times, depending on a number of random factors, such as where the suspected or reported abuse is initially lodged. This is unacceptable because the process of evaluating the credibility of such a report cannot depend on subjective or random factors.

So, we set up the national protocol, actually following a process that was as broad and consensual as possible, in other words, we consulted with actors and practitioners from the broadest range of both the state and the non-governmental sectors, who are involved in these processes in practice. It is like an algorithm of steps covering every type of suspected abuse, physical, sexual, psychological, neglect, and determining which professions must intervene and what they must examine so as to reach a reliable conclusion. Back then, we trained 400 professionals in all 13 Regions of the country on how to use the protocol and have since provided further training, because we are asked to do so by various bodies, so the protocol must have been received as a useful and rather comprehensive tool.

We notified the state, the relevant ministries, because the protocol was inherently intersectoral, in other words, it was intended to be used by professionals working in the welfare, health, justice, law enforcement and education sectors.

When did you notify them about the protocol?

In 2014, when the work was completed. At the same time, within the framework of this project, we had created an incident-monitoring electronic tool, through which every reported incident could be registered and various professionals from different bodies, sectors and specialisations could all have access to this computerised system, their access adjusted according to what the law stipulates. What I mean is, in the Greek legal system, for example, public prosecutors may have access to any information, but other professionals may have access to restricted data, for personal data protection reasons. So, the system we set up could provide varying degrees of access to the different professional categories. We also produced the accompanying material, training guides, user guides. And we trained, once again, 400 people from all areas of public administration and non-governmental organisations in their use. We informed the state about these tools too, in 2014.

What became of these tools?

They remain inactive. The state never adopted them. They have not been granted any institutional status. The irony is that at the same time, our institution, heading a consortium of academic bodies from other European countries, developed an equivalent system commissioned by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice, which could be implemented in all 28 Member-States of the European Union. We also received separate funding from the European Commission, from the same directorate-general, to implement the system for Pan-European epidemiological monitoring that we created in six Member-States of the European Union, with the aim of expanding its use to all Member-States. We have also given it to Greece, ready-to-use, and it is not being utilised.

What must the state do in order to adopt it?

It needs an administrative or legislative act that would give it formal status. In the Greek sphere, it is nothing more than a simple initiative at present. In some way, the actors involved must receive a sign from the state that they need to use it and that this data will be utilised in some way.

Is it a case of lacking a culture of intersectional cooperation?

In Greece, the tradition of intersectoral cooperation is certainly limited. And experiences in the field of child protection are often traumatic because intersectoral cooperation is always necessary, there is no way any sector or any profession could ever adequately deal with an incident on their own.

However, the truth is that it has not been at all easy in several European countries, too. The inflexibility that arises from being confined in one’s sector is not a uniquely Greek characteristic; it was also found elsewhere. A systematic effort was needed to overcome or bypass resistance, to shatter given preconceptions and practices and reframe practices on the basis of the child being victimised. We had to rethink our processes, not based on what suits us, the professionals, the adults, on what comes most naturally based on the way our service operates or the traditions of our practice, but based on how we should all work together to serve the interests of the population that they benefit, the child victim.

Is the financial crisis to blame for the lack of progress in Greece?

Look, there is a poverty of resources, although that was also the case before the crisis as far as the field of social and child protection is concerned. And yet, we can apparently afford the luxury of no less than four or five parallel service networks, fragmented and inefficient. There is a social services network under first-level local government authorities, a network under Regional authorities, which also has different statutory powers, another network under the Ministry of Labour’s General Secretariat of Welfare, another one under the Ministry of Justice and its legal entities, a health network under the Ministry of Education and the Community Mental Health Centres for Children and Adolescents, and so on and so forth.  We indulge in the luxury of maintaining them all as separate parallel networks despite the poverty of resources and keep them as is, despite the crisis and the even greater poverty of resources. So, you see, there is indeed the problem of funding, but there is also the issue of how we use the resources at our disposal.

Then how do you explain what is happening?

Social welfare was never established as an independent sector of public administration in Greece. Consequently, all these networks of psycho-social and social services for children are subordinate to other sectors, and as a result, their prioritisations and priorities are subject to the prioritisations and priorities of the sector that they serve. Take local government, for example, go to the social services of a municipality and ask the staff how often municipal leaders interfere in what they do, in the priorities and planning of their service. Sometimes, in extreme cases, especially in smaller communities, they even interfere in the work itself. Or take justice. Obviously, the services there are subject to the priorities of the prosecutorial or the judicial mechanism. What I mean is, everyone set up their own thing, with the embroilment of politicians from various posts too, but each of those things began to develop an autonomous existence and then everyone began to defend its particularities and self-existence. The fact remains that all of those things do not constitute a system.

So, the most pressing need is the unification of services?

I have already mentioned the fact that which service is called upon, which professionals, what they examine, how and when, unfortunately still varies according to the service or geographical location where a report or suspicion first arises. This means some children can be victimised multiple times for daring to reveal that they are being victimised. It is a well-known fact that in the case of sexual violation of children in particular, where objective forensic findings are usually absent, we have numerous such instances, which came to us with an already long  history of multiple evaluations, statements from related and unrelated persons, who asked and did relevant and irrelevant things. I must confess that when I first arrived at this post, I found open cases where the revelation had been made in 2002 and the final judgement was ultimately delivered in 201. In other words, a child found the courage to reveal something when they were four or five years old and justice was delivered when that child was on the verge of adulthood.  

You can understand how this borders on a punitive stance on the part of the state towards the child that finds the courage to speak out. I can also give you more examples of how harmful this chaos can be. In all these years, I have seen incidents of anal warts in four- and five-year-olds, who by the time they came to our attention had been receiving treatment in public hospitals for one to two years, without any investigation, as one would expect, into how these children came to be ill. Because in this chaotic environment everyone can become entrenched in a role which they get to define. A doctor can say, “I’m a dermatologist, my job is to treat the damage I see, the rest is none of my business.” That’s not how it should be, though…

Isn’t there procedural immunity for health professionals who report such incidences?

Yes, there is, and the fact that it was legislated for social services too, extending the immunity of professionals, was a positive step. For many years, others and I were constantly called to testify as witnesses for the defence of colleagues who had been sued for defamation or breach of duty by those named as perpetrators of crimes against children.

Are not professionals who fail to report such incidents subject to criminal liability?

They are, but that is not the point. It is often the case that the law merely provides for penalties without any provision for support. In other words, the law says you must do this, and if you don’t, you will be prosecuted, go to prison for so many years, but without giving you any backing, without providing the support that will allow you to do what you need to do, leaving you to your own devices to that end.  If a teacher reports a case and the alleged offender then sues, who in Greece will provide the teacher with institutional support? Let me tell you that the experience of people working in this field, be they doctors, or psychologists, or social workers, or other professionals in the mental health or social welfare sectors, is that at least until the latest legislation, whose impact in practice remains to be seen, there were people who were dragged through the courts for six, seven, eight years as defendants. No one paid for their lawyer, no one recompensed them for the fact that they had to appear before the court every six to eight months, no one supported them on how they were supposed to do what they are being instructed to do.  

Legislation on its own does not resolve all issues, as a great many instances show us. The point is, what mechanism would actually allow us to agree in this country that a given professional was doing their job in good faith and lege artis? The right of the alleged offender to take legal action, because their reputation was damaged for example, is understandable and inviolable. Although less frequent, instances of accusations being made frivolously do arise. So, the accused must have some legal recourse.  

The problem is that we have no reliable system in place to ensure that if, for example, Nikolaidis sends 100 cases to court and not one results in a guilty verdict, a body will find this practice unacceptable. There needs to be some reliable way for the authorities to review me, if I am doing my job properly. In Greece, this is not a given, because traditional monitoring bodies are not universally accepted, because politics, interpersonal relationships and the like also come into play.

But even when a report is made, it does not necessarily follow that the state will respond appropriately, does it? In the notorious child sexual abuse case of Rethymno, in 2011, approximately a year passed between the report being made and the suspect’s arrest…

Yes, and there was much talk, many questions about the time gap between the initial report and the arrest.

Were there answers?

Look, I can’t say whether the answers were satisfactory or not. In the first press release by the Greek police, there was a triumphant tone about the systematic surveillance that led to the perpetrator’s arrest. Of course, the counterargument to that is that in a city like Rethymno, which is a small community where everyone knows everything, surveilling someone is not so difficult as to require such a long time. Nonetheless, it is open to debate…

How did you come to be involved in the Rethymno case?

In the spring of 2011, we were running the BECAN study on child abuse and neglect. One of the areas of Greece, where we took a random sample of 15,000 children, was Crete. In the summer, as we were processing our first results, we observed a paradox, an anomaly in the results from the Region of Rethymno: we had an extremely high rate of self-reported sexual victimisation of boys and almost a complete reversal of the boy to girl ratio, contrary to what we had expected. We could not explain it. We speculated it must be due to a technical error.

Then, on 1 December 2011, coach Nikos Seiragakis was arrested, and the largest paedophilia case in Greece came to light. By coincidence, we had already planned an open event to take place in Heraklion, Crete, a few days later, on the protection of children against sexual abuse, implementing the “One in Five” campaign of the Lanzarote Committee and the Council of Europe. So, I arrived in Heraklion and, as you can guess, the Rethymno case was all everyone talked about. I went to Rethymno the following day, and because of my occupation, I attended a meeting with the municipality, the region and the local authorities. I was then asked to make a proposal, which I submitted both to the local authorities and the relevant ministries at the end of December 2011. It was a proposal on the actions that needed to be taken, given the scope of the case, whose extent we did not know, but it appeared to be a mass case.  However, we said that we, as an institute, could not support the initiative because we lacked the necessary funds; if you remember, this was at the end of 2011. Then, after a meeting between the ministries involved and local authorities, we were informed that they would like us to implement the actions we had proposed. They found the necessary funding through the NSRF for us to begin.

When did you begin?

A year later. This is indicative of how unwieldy the Greek public sector can be, even when it comes to projects it funds and the political will is present. There were other obstacles later, of course, there was inherent resistance, in a manner of speaking…

What kind of resistance?

One of the criticisms we received was that the personnel employed in our intervention did not come from the local community, did not come from Rethymno. But I believe that was a very intelligent choice if anyone involved in the events back then recalls the mood of the local community at the time.  In every new incident, our personnel, the psychologists, the social workers, the child psychologists who worked with us, were asked by those they saw whether they were from Rethymno. The moment they heard, “No, I’m from elsewhere,” there was a huge wave of relief and then they shared their suffering, which they would probably not have done had the personnel been local. So, let’s just say there was some discontent that we did not support local employment. But we chose to make communication for the beneficiaries easier and more effective.

One must bear in mind that in western Crete at the time there were no structured free public mental health services for children and teenagers—even today there are very, very few. So, we set up this unit in Rethymno and saw around 450 children, not all victims necessarily, we also covered pre-existing mental health needs. At the same time, we ran a widely accessible health promotion campaign on the subject of child abuse, children’s sexuality, the children’s right to their body, and so on, at all levels of education in the whole of the Region of Rethymno, that is to say, primary and secondary schools, students, parents and teachers. We also trained personnel at various services, we held educational actions for coaches and sportspeople. Because we were immediately visited by the coaches’ association and told, “We don’t dare touch the children, you can’t coach children and be afraid to touch them at the same time.” Therefore, we had to impart all the international know-how about how it is possible to have both child protection processes in place and still function as a sports space. We also held educational actions on child protection and domestic violence for priests, with very strong support from the metropolitan bishop of Rethymno. Both he and Mrs Lioni, the Vice-Prefect of the Region, greatly supported us back then, fully understanding what was at stake.  

How long did your intervention last?

Until the end of 2014, when the resources at our disposal ran out. This program was normally supposed to last for twelve months, but we somehow managed to extend it to 22 months, carefully managing our resources, with the agreement of the managing authorities of course.

Why did you stop?

The decision of the political leadership of the time was to not extend the operation of the unit there, despite the fact that both other actors in the community and we had requested an extension, given the absence of other units, other facilities for children and teenagers in the region. Talking of resistance, I believe that at least some of the local actors preferred to forget this incident had ever happened rather than work to enable the local community to get over it. There was a fairly strong tendency to sweep everything under the rug.

Anyhow, we were informed by the political leadership that their decision was to shut down the unit permanently, which was one of the most traumatic experiences I have had in this field. There were many children and families already in systematic therapy and who essentially had no other options, nowhere else to go. We were obliged to inform people that we would be closing, and they were literally crying.

Were you asked to contact anyone succeeding you?

No, nothing, nothing. We did not speak with anyone. They did not even seek our opinion about anything.

What became of those children?

Many of them were obviously unable to continue receiving treatment at services elsewhere. And I imagine that at least some of them will find it very hard to recommence using such services again, the way things were handled…

However, at the end of 2014, during Charalambos Athanasiou’s tenure at the Ministry of Justice, the “National Action Plan for the Rights of Children” that was put to public consultation included the continuation of the psycho-social intervention programme in Rethymno, with new funding under the NSRF 2014-2020…

The truth is that when that day, I think it was a Sunday lunchtime, 24 September 2014, Katerina Papakosta, the then Deputy Minister of Health, announced during a broad meeting between various actors that the unit would be permanently shut down, we were surprised. Because until the very last minute, so to speak, people close to the political leadership of the time, the political actors in Rethymno, were reassuring us that an extension would be granted, as there was evidently no other solution. I cannot know what could have possibly happened overnight to change that decision. But it is true that all the signs, which were also present in documents as you rightly note, pointed to the state continuing this action because what had been done until then was certainly not enough.

Evidently, the repercussions of such a massive paedophilia case in such a small community have a continuous, negative effect on the psychosocial life of the children’s families. It is not something that can be dealt with in a year, a year and a half.

All I know is that any efforts made in the immediate aftermath for questions on this matter to be tabled in Parliament by SYRIZA, the main opposition party at the time, ultimately failed. Incidentally, SYRIZA’s health coordinator in opposition was Andreas Xanthos, who subsequently became Minister of Health in the following government, and who is also the local MP for the Region of Rethymno.

Are you implying that the side that wished to sweep the case under the rug won?

I can’t say that with any certainty. I’ve told you what I know.

Did the visit to the Lechaina unit also take place on your initiative?

In the summer of 2015, following a report that had been made and some coverage by the international press and Greek broadcaster ERT, a visit to the site was organised, headed by Georgos Moschos, the Children’s Ombudsman, with the participation of Ioanna Kouvaritaki from the Circle of Children’s Rights and Aimilia Panagou from Social Welfare, and I was asked to also attend. It was a shock. I saw people in wooden cages, a space of two by two meters. Permanently locked up. I saw people with both hands and feet shackled. Continuously. Following this, yes, we submitted a plan…

On your initiative?

Yes. The Institute at the time was beginning a partnership with British NGO Lumos, which works towards deinstitutionalising child protection around the world. Allow me to remind you, however, that the summer of 2015 was a very turbulent period. At the same time, the Centre for Social Welfare management changed. We submitted a proposal again. In November of the same year, the unit was occupied in protest for four days by the Greek Emancipation Movement for the Disabled “Mideniki Anohi” (Zero Tolerance), which also drew publicity to the situation. At some point during the following year, our partnership with Lumos was finalised for the development of an emergency relief intervention in the Lechaina Unit to put an end to these extreme forms of restraint and confinement. In the spring of the following year, the management and the Ministry of Labour gave their approval for our emergency intervention to be implemented.

So, you enjoyed the support of the new political leadership, after the change of government in 2015?

I often hear or read that the leadership of the time took the initiative to change the situation at the Lechaina Unit. The truth is that, after a lot of pressure, they simply gave an approval so that an initiative taken by other people and institutions, with the funding of others, could be implemented. So, if the political leadership of the time can lay claim to anything, it is that after a lot of toing and froing, they gave us the go-ahead to implement our programme, a programme that enjoyed no jurisdictional backing vis-à-vis the unit in question, its personnel, the way it functions. They just said, “Great, you can go to the unit and do what you think is best…”

The experience of this intervention, of course, was life-altering for me personally. It is truly incredible to watch people who have only existed as objects regain their subjectivity. For a person to extend their hand and choose who they want to caress, to choose which top they want to wear or pronounce words after ten years of silence, these are all concrete evidence of their subjective desires and choices.

How does a child end up in such a unit?

Unfortunately, as is the case for too many state and non-governmental welfare institutions, the decision to admit someone is taken by examining the case file without anyone coming into direct, face-to-face clinical contact with the beneficiary or their family. For example, one day, I was checking in with our own people in Lechaina, and they told me that the board of directors had decided to admit a new child. I asked them, “Who has seen the child in question?” And I found out that no one had. They only saw the supporting documents.

Had these supporting documents been submitted by the family?

Yes, because in Greece, by and large, the admission of a child with disabilities at an institution is still viewed, at least by some, as a boon to the family. And sometimes, it is also handled as political favour towards the family. This situation is not confined to Lechaina, but also exists in other institutions, both state and non-governmental, or run by the church or other organisations.

The same situation?

Not identical as such, but the fact that there is a country within the country, so to speak, where other rules apply, or the provisions of the law do not apply. For example, we met an adult in Lechaina who had entered institutionalised care as a child. For many years, both at Lechaina and the previous state institution where he had resided, his father’s wish for communication concerning the child to be confined to his work telephone numbers was respected. This was because the father had lied to the child’s mother that the child had gone into intensive care for two days after birth and then died. For seventeen, eighteen consecutive years, two state institutions had hidden the existence of a Down’s syndrome child living there from its mother. You understand that such events violate every notion of a legal or moral code.

Is there no disciplinary investigation or a criminal law procedure for all this?

When Zero Tolerance occupied the space, the police were called. The activists went to the prosecutor’s office and said we wish to report that there are people there whose rights are flagrantly violated. Did you see any charges being brought against the management? The ministers? The general secretaries? Any charges pressed for the fact that people are still restrained against those that restrained them?

What is needed for the prosecutions to go ahead?

Nothing. In the Greek legal system, the public prosecutor can instigate proceedings. There have been repeated press reports in this instance. Is there no one who could be held accountable for the fact that a person was held in a cage for 21 consecutive years, without leaving the cage for even an hour? I wonder, in Greece today no court has the legal capacity to impose such a sentence on anyone, so how is it possible to tolerate that a person be so deprived of their rights and for this not to raise the question: who subjected them to this deprivation? Why?

After the “emergency intervention” in Lechaina, what followed?

The most disappointing aspect of the whole story is the following: in December 2017, the then government announced that it would allocate a sum from the super-surplus, within the framework of a programme with a budget of fifteen million euro to be shared between the Centres of Social Welfare of Attica and Western Greece, for the deinstitutionalisation of the Lechaina Unit. This is also stated in the joint ministerial decision signed at the end of 2018. The same decision also states that a detailed plan would follow in the immediate future, setting out the transition process, the facilities to be developed, the timetable, etc.

Two years previously, in partnership with Lumos, we had already drafted such a detailed plan and submitted it to the government, as well as the board of directors of the Centre of Social Welfare, and the relevant services of the Commission and other bodies both within Greece and abroad, and had also discussed it with the permanent personnel of the unit. We had also notified the municipality as extensively as possible. It was extremely detailed, with a budget, timetables, and so on.

I’m not saying that this was the best plan and should be adopted as the final detailed plan. I’m just saying that absolutely nothing has happened since then. The most disheartening aspect is that this time the funds are there. So, the issue is not funding, the lack of resources we were talking about. It is the fact that, even when the resources are there, nothing happens other than general rhetoric endorsing deinstitutionalisation.

But isn’t this absence of organisation and concrete planning typical of the entire child protection system?

Yes. Greece was the first country to ratify the Lanzarote Convention, an action that is in keeping with a long tradition of the Greek state, ever since the time it ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992, again one of the first countries to do so, to pass laws without any consideration as to how they will be implemented and if they will be implemented. In other words, we passed it and left it, internationally we can hold our head high, we were the first to do so, and then we made no provision for what was to follow.

Do you know how many things should already exist? Sexual education at all levels of formal and informal education. Have you ever seen anything like it in Greek education? And as to the provision of services to child victims…

Shouldn’t there be some kind of specialised training for professionals, especially those in health and education, who come into contact with children and act as the first “filter”, outside the family, in the identification of child abuse?

Yes, there should be. There should also be training for public prosecutors and judges trying such cases. Because, let me remind you, in Greece, there are no family courts, not as a dedicated institution that can acquire the expertise and sensitivity needed to approach children. So, alongside property disputes and homicides, the court tries sexual abuse of minors cases, as best it can.

So, historically, Greece just speculates on the various initiatives of different bodies, one of which is our Institute sometimes, and then claims, “We held a training programme,” for instance, just because one of those bodies did so. No systematic efforts have been made to comply with the implementation of the conventions we ratified as a country. What has happened is that a number of people involved in the field in any case and motivated to put various initiatives into action, and raise the funds needed (usually from abroad), did so and the state just said, “Look at all the actions we have taken!”.

But all these efforts bring about results, don’t they?

Yes, but they do not constitute a strategy that can cover the whole sector. An organisation takes the initiative and says I will train thirty, three hundred, three thousand professionals. How long can this last without institutional backup? A social worker in the Region, let’s say, will go to the Children’s Ombudsman’s offices and receive training. That’s fine, but the social worker’s superior is not the Ombudsman, their superior is usually a doctor because the Region still keeps the administrative structure of social services under a single Directorate of Health and Welfare. In some cases, and I have met people who are very attuned to social issues, the social worker will be given autonomy and support. However, in other cases, if the Prefect or the Mayor is holding a bazaar and wants to host a municipal fete, the social worker will be told that there are other things to attend to.

Why do any attempts to coordinate this system, for example, the reform introduced during Harris Kastanides’ tenure at the Ministry of Justice concerning the Central  Scientific Council for the Prevention and Combating of Victimisation and Criminality of Minors (“KESATHEA”) and the Juvenile Protection Teams, fail?

Look, from the moment that this institution was founded, I had reservations as to whether the introduction of an administrative nomenclature would actually lead to anything. I think the experience until now has been that, firstly, KESATHEA, which, as stated by the ministerial decree, was supposed to coordinate the Juvenile Protection Teams, does not coordinate them. They are coordinated by the National Centre for Social Solidarity (EKKA) because KESATHEA does not have the resources to do so. Secondly, the Juvenile Protection Teams the ministerial decree provides for, are not teams. They are the same municipal social services with a different name. In other words, the legislator’s fantasy that there would be teams comprising professionals from social services, the offices of the public prosecutor, local mental health care centres, etc., never became a reality.

The fact is that municipal social services, whatever name we give them, after nearly a decade of memorandums and restrictions in public sector recruitment, have ended up consisting of a single person. And that person is not only charged with matters of child protection but every social issue pertaining to minors, adults, the elderly… What we are actually doing, then, is taking a slice of the time of a single social worker at a municipality and renaming it a Juvenile Protection Team…

When the Juvenile Protection Teams were introduced, I was asked by the state to train the social workers who would participate in them and discovered that it was just the social workers as individuals, no teams. Georgos Moschos and I had gone to provide the training, and I asked them, “Who is permanent and who is contract staff?” More than half of them were contract staff. So, then I asked, “When does your contract expire?” “In three months.” “How about you?”  “In five months.” I turn around and tell them—Panagiotis Altanis, the president of EKKA, which was coordinating the training initiative, was also there—what do we do now? Are we saying that we will give special skills training to people who will find themselves outside the system in three months?

For some years now, for example, NSRF programs have been running, under which psychologists and social workers are hired in the education sector. How effective is this measure, beyond supporting employment? I understand that supporting employment is no small thing, but a social worker, a psychologist, visits three schools, is responsible for 15-20 classes, and by the time he gets to know them he has to leave in three months because the contract expires, and then there is a gap in the system until his position is filled by someone else the following years…

The system does not fundamentally improve with such actions. In terms of strengthening its functionality, it would be better to say let us use the resources at our disposal to employ half the people but within a unified system.

I do understand that given the domination of the most neoliberal public administration policies across Europe, concepts such as networking the services, complimentarity of services, targeted programmes and so on, have been all the rage these past two decades. I, personally, consider anything beginning with the word “networking” a scam. I’m sorry to be so blunt. We do not need networks here, we need institutions. We need a service. We have no service in this country, so we what, talk about making a network out of a non-existent service?

In a reality such as the Greek reality, which does not have a social services structure like most other European countries, the issue at hand is how to set up an autonomous sector. Then we can debate how it can function better to our heart’s content.

This interview took place in September 2019.