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Bulgaria - Promoting children’s well-being – key policies and measures

The profile covers some of the main aspects of the policy to support children and families – supporting parents’ participation in the labour market; providing quality services for families or in environments surrounding the family; reducing inequality at a young age by investing in early childhood education and care; promoting children’s participation in decision-making that affects their lives, etc. It outlines the key measures putting emphasis on children from the most vulnerable groups. The link between the main priorities and challenges in the field of policy for promoting child well-being is also taken into account.

Bulgaria - Promoting children’s well-being – key policies and measures

The profile covers some of the main aspects of the policy to support children and families – supporting parents’ participation in the labour market; providing quality services for families or in environments surrounding the family; reducing inequality at a young age by investing in early childhood education and care; promoting children’s participation in decision-making that affects their lives, etc. It outlines the key measures putting emphasis on children from the most vulnerable groups. The link between the main priorities and challenges in the field of policy for promoting child well-being is also taken into account.

Access to adequate resources

Support parents’ participation in the labour market

Programmes and measures aimed at supporting parents’ participation in the labor market continued to be implemented in 2012. Employers’ costs for wages and social contributions are financed by the state budget for each job created and filled by:

• unemployed single parents and/or mothers with children less than 3 years of age;

• unemployed mothers (adopters) with children between 3 and 5 years of age. 

Under these two measures, 354 parents and/or mothers were involved in employment in 2012. For the first half of 2013 this number reached 387.

To support the employment of parents who have children under 3 years of age, a "Back to Work" scheme has been implemented. In the framework of the scheme, free care for children under 3 years of age is provided to parents who are employed either under a labour contract or civil service contract, or who are self-employed. Unemployed persons in pre-retirement age with education and qualification in the areas of health, education and social activities are hired in priority as babysitters. In 2012, 699 families were supported. Since the launch of the project by the end of 2012, 2,499 families were supported. By mid-2013 3,476 families were included in the project, and 3,275 unemployed were involved in training. Training was completed by 3,200 people. Under the project, 3,457 people are involved in employment.

Access to affordable quality services

Reduce inequality at a young age by investing in early childhood education and care

Investment in early childhood education and care is one of the key priorities of the Bulgarian government. Bulgaria's efforts to develop and implement integrated policies for early childhood development for children from 0 to 7 years of age are supported by the Social Inclusion Project launched in 2010. 

The main objective is to prevent social exclusion and reduce child poverty by investing in early childhood development. Through the implementation of the project the municipalities will start providing a new type of services for children and families aimed at: early childhood development, risk prevention in early childhood, better coverage and improvement of the readiness of children for inclusion in the educational system, and improvement of the family environment. The total number of signed financial agreements is 69.

Enhance family support and the quality of alternative care settings

Provision of financial support is an important tool for supporting children and families. The financial support provided under the Family Allowances Act covers over 80% of children in Bulgaria. Funds amounting to nearly half a billion BGN are provided from the state budget for 2013 for payment of family benefits. 

Deinstitutionalisation of childcare is an irreversible process which has already been implemented for over three years. The main objective of the realisation of the five projects set out in the Action Plan for implementation of the National Strategy “Vision for the Deinstitutionalization of Children in the Republic of Bulgaria” is to guarantee children’s right to a family environment and quality services according to their individual needs. 

As a result of the implementation of the process of deinstitutionalisation there is a constant increase in the number of the community based social services for children and, at the same time, a decrease in the number of specialised institutions. As of July 31, 2013 the number of community-based social services for children was 357 and the number of specialized institutions was 81. In addition, some of the key measures in the National Strategy for Reducing Poverty and Promoting Social Inclusion 2020 adopted on February 6, 2013, are the development of a network of services in the family or close to family environment for children; the development of innovative cross-sectoral services for children and families, etc.

Children’s right to participate

Put in place mechanisms that promote children’s participation in decision making that affects their lives

In 2012 the Council of Children to the State Agency for Child Protection developed a four-step mechanism for child participation. It is directed towards encouraging children’s participation in the decision-making process at school, municipality, regional and national level. Currently it is being piloted in cooperation with UNICEF, the Ministry of Education and Science and local authorities in three regions in Bulgaria. It is expected that the project will finish with analyses and recommendations for legislation changes. In 2012, the Law for Youth was adopted, which, among other things, envisages creating a register of youth organisations which will participate in decisions concerning youth policies.

One of the key challenges identified in the Recommendation is child poverty. Addressing this challenge should be based on an integrated approach which places children ́s rights and the best interests of the child at the centre of the efforts to combat child poverty. This approach should include measures aimed at supporting parents’ participation in the labour market; ensuring adequate living standards through benefits; providing accessible and quality care services, etc. Other important challenges are related to investing in early childhood education and care and supporting child participation in the decision-making process.

Over the past years the policy for providing support to children and families has been oriented towards the introduction of an entirely new approach to child care, aimed at prevention, early intervention, family support and ensuring a family or close to family environment for every Bulgarian child. The development of integrated services for early childhood development and of innovative cross-sectoral services for children and families is one of the key measures set out in the National Strategy for Reducing Poverty and Promoting Social Inclusion 2020 adopted by the Council of Ministers in early 2013. The main innovative characteristics of the services are that they will be integrated in terms of joint work between different specialists and in terms of the nature of the services - social, health, educational. Furthermore, their implementation will contribute to meeting the special needs of children, promoting their social inclusion and providing support to their families.

The information in the country profile was last updated in February 2014