Ad-PHS project’s workshop in Bulgaria

The AD-PHS Bulgarian seminar took place on Zoom on November 17th 2020. During the workshop, Dorotea Daniele welcomed the participants and presented the project with all changes that occurred because of the pandemic challenges, including the study and survey on the consequences of COVID-19 in the PHS sector.

After review of the Country fiche by Yuliya Simeonova with focus on the changes and amendments made during the previous meetings, by phone and e-mails, the participants shared their opinions on some promising practices. The role of Centers for social services for children and families, as they exist in the cities of Plovdiv, Shumen, Ruse, Varna, was emphasized. They offer a variety of high-requested services, they take on huge responsibilities for caring for and providing very specific services and advice, but there is a deep imbalance between the quality of services and their remuneration, which is below the criteria for decent pay for decent work.

The initiatives of Karin Dom aroused great interest. Early intervention in diagnosed children from 0 to 3 years of age is crucial for young patients and their families. In a pandemic situation, the consultations are held under a new mode of operation, which is a challenge for the teams because they have to visit homes. As a result of their dedication to work, some employees became infected and risked burnout due to overwork. The team has a variety of professionals. Patients are present in their lives for a long period of time and often feel part of their family. That’s why Karin Dom relies heavily on a family-oriented approach. Parents, siblings are counselled and taught the appropriate behaviour to treat diagnosed children. Unfortunately, financial conditions are very difficult. Karin Dom’s team relies on additional support by voluntary donations. Innovation is to be offered to parents while waiting for the child’s therapy, which often lasts up to 4 hours, to knit, sew, take care of the flowers in the multi-sensory garden created for children with sensory disabilities. There is a sector for playing with water, a path for educational purposes, which the waiting parents ennoble. Vegetables and fruits are grown in the yard, which helps to get in touch with nature and know the functioning of the basic elements and the biological development of the plant world. Joint care increases trust, which leads to the strengthening of families and the community. They develop social entrepreneurship through their activities. The international activity allows the diversification of the methods for providing specialized PHS and the dream is to help 100 times more families through the applied integrated approach, including by music and art therapists, along with psychologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists and others.

During the roundtable discussion, a representative of a training organization shared a view that, unlike Karin Dom, in many places, there is no holistic approach to “care” and compared with the practices in Germany and Spain. There was some optimism that after the approval of the State Educational Standard “Social Worker Assistant” at the end of November 2020, more trainees are expected to benefit from a higher quality of the training for this asked qualification, which can help them personally and their families, along with the exercise of the profession. The issue of low pay in the personal and household services sector came back on the agenda. The essential guideline is overcoming of the inequalities in remuneration of the employed in PHS sector and decent payments for a higher quality of the life.
In connection with the aim of the project and next steps, it was asked how to identify the organization that will be chosen to create in the country a single contact centre to support and advise public authorities in the development of PHS policies.

To summarize, the workshop enriched the information included in the Country profile and analysed the Bulgarian examples of good practice in the Personal and Household Services sector. A willingness was expressed for closer cooperation at European level by networking and experiences exchange. There is an attitude towards practical implementation of the new legislation and for targeted use of the available financial instruments for recovery, resilience and sustainable development, as well as funds from the new programming period 2021-2027.