On June 3, shortly after Children’s Day was celebrated, representatives of the Center for Independent Living celebrated Mimicry Day – caused by a social services illness that sentenced thousands of children and young people to an inability to live independently.

At a press conference in Sofia-press Kapka Panayotova, Mitko Nikolov and Nina Zhisheva from the Center for Independent Living presented a report “More from the same or Mimicry – a disease in social services in Bulgaria” – a comparative analysis of methodologies for providing different services in the community.

In recent years, a very important process for the whole society has started – the closure of large homes /institutions/ for disadvantaged people and their placement in residential type of homes – Sheltered Home, Family Center Accommodation Center, Transitional Housing , Supervised Housing, Day Care Center, Center for Social Rehabilitation and Integration for Children and Adults.

Analysts have asked a VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION in their research: Is it possible to achieve independent living and inclusion in the community through these new social services and are they NEW? The analysis covers all the parameters of the services: accommodation, goals, staff, activities, individual plan, financing and user fees and methodologies by which the activity is carried out.

The big goal of this analytic work is to determine whether the methods of providing social services in Bulgaria provide an opportunity to “support daily life and participate in the life of the community” or create another reality that leads to permanent isolation.

The conclusion of the study is that NOTHING HAS BECOME ESSENTIALLY DIFFERENT from the traditional institutions because:

  • Users have not become customers. Again, they live by the requirements and rules of somebody else. The money the state gives to them and their own social pensions in the form of fees goes for somebody else to decide for them how to live;
  • The methodologies for implementing all these “new resident services” have nothing to do with the philosophy of the independent living formulated by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Only the fasade, the number of people living in new homes, is changing, but the essence remains the same – isolation. In fact, the service is one: an institution, the methodology used is one – the old, but the names under which it mimics are new, different, and not very attractive. What “protects” the sheltered home from and who and why it “monitors” what was monitored alredy – the participants in the press conference logically asked;
  • The terms “service” and “care” are confused. The understanding that people in these institutions are ill and in need of care continues to grow. And they need support and real services in the community to guarantee them the right to choose.

The conclusion drawn by the organizations in their analysis is: The current policies in the social sphere, and in particular in the disability sphere, are in stark contrast to Art. 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Kapka Panayotova said that if our country continues to abate the Convention ratified last year, legal actions will be taken to protect the rights of people with special needs in Bulgaria.

The authors of the report made the following recommendations to those responsible for the implementation of social services in Bulgaria:

  • Consumers to become real customers;
  • Consumers to choose the supplier;
  • Consumers can hire the specialists who will provide services to them;
  • Financing of social services solely as activities;
  • Activities should be valued and funded as professional services on a fixed time basis;
  • The individual plans should be valued and each user should receive an individual budget;
  • Separation of “support” from “care”;
  • Small group homes should be defined as living spaces ONLY;
  • The right of use should be determined solely by the needs of the person, arranged by his desires, will and aspirations and by the environment;
  • Professional staff providing various services should be available in social services;
  • Introducing a “delegated” budget for the customer that can be spent under certain conditions and for certain suppliers;
  • Introducing a licensing regime for all providers of social services, including municipal structures.

Representatives of the National Children’s Network supported CIL’s demand for a diametrically new philosophy of social policy, in which the indicators are not the number of services (which are actually different names of the same thing) but the quality of life of the children.

The decisive step towards the deinstitutionalization that we are about to make as a society and government is to provide real support for people with special needs through modern social services that will allow them to choose and decide their own lives, rather than closing them in small institutions with institutional arrangements.