Ninth National Forum "European Partnership for New and Quality Social Services“
The Ninth National Forum of Social Service Providers took place in Golden Sands, Varna from June 11 to 13, 2014. The event was organized by NASO and with the support of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, National Association of Municipalities in Bulgaria and EASPD. The agenda of the Forum this year included three days dedicated to the good practices in the social services in Bulgaria and Europe, quality standards for social services and implementation of innovative services. The main goal was exchange of experience, knowldege, skills and good practice in important matters related with people with disabilities, social services and labour employment. Besides the general and final discussions on NASO and NASO members projects, proposals for social services quality standards and implementation of supported employment as an innovative service were submitted to the respective governmental authorities.
European experts were amongst the official speakers and guests during the Forum, such as Luk Zelderloo, Seceraty General of EASPD, Marie Dubost, representative of the European Rehabilitation Platform and EQUASS coordinator, Monika Heitmann, representative of European Care Certificate, Martin Konrad, Manager of Atempo Social Networks, Austria, Philippe Sloss, manager of Zonnestraal, Belgium, and others. Representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, National Association of Municipalities in Bulgaria, municipal and district administrations, Social Support Agency, Employment Agency, Agency of Persons with Disabilities participated in the Forum on behalf of the Bulgarian responsible institutions. Members of nationally representative organizations, service providers, NGOs, employers from the regular labour market interested in providing supported employment also attended the Forum.
The success and significance of well gathered range of experts and stakeholders in the social sector was confirmed in the special address on behalf of Lazar Lazarov, deputy minister of labour and social policy who was unable to attend in person. "It is important social matters to be discussed by all partners and intitutions," the adress said. „Better social services with high quality is a part of the future of this sector, as well as increase of services themselves,“ was also pointed out. On behalf of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy was also said that adults institutions must be reformed, the quality and accessibility to services must be improved, a new and different model of social services funding must be implemented, better coverage and higher efficiency of services must be developed. Ivaylo Ivanov, executive director of the Social Support Agency, read the adress on behalf of the Social Ministry. He attented and participated actively on the Forum, made several speeches and presentations and was answering the questions from the other participants.
The common conviction about the necessity of partnership at all levels - international, national, regional, joint activities between the local authorities and NGOs, including implementation of competition in social services and giving an equal start to private providers, was amongst the main conclusions from the Forum. A lot of examples for successful partnership practices on national and international level were presented. Specific agreements for future meetings and joint activities in different topics including on the NGO participation in the European Semester were made.
Another main topic in the Forum which can be considered as a continuation of the topics covered on the previous Eighth National Forum on the transition from school to employment was the need of implementing innovative forms of support for the labour employment of groups in need. Good practices for supported employment and methodology for its implementations and performance were presented. There's obviously a high need for implementation of such service but it would need legal changes and development of methodology and sufficient funding was said on behalf of the Social Support Agency. The institution expressed its support and convincement that effective and fruitful solutions for the social services extention can be found.
The third focus of the Forum - of quality standards and criteria, was integrally connected with the topics of partnership and new services. NASO team presented a complete study on standards and criteria based on the most modern European and international tendencies and fully adapted to the Bulgarian conditions and coordinated with NASO partners and local authorities.
All topics covered during the Forum and the future implementation of working solutions in that respect will definitely contribute for the active development of social policies and services in Bulgaria. NASO will continue its activities for international, national and local partnership and will attract social stakeholders to reach its goals of partnership, innovative services and implementaion of quality standards. The corporative social responsibility still remains a blank field and business inclusion the social sector will be one of NASO main directions in the comining months.
We will provide additional and detailed information for all presentations and speeches from the Forum in the future print and online editions of NASO. All presentations will be available online in the dedicated Forum section.