Giving disabled children a real chance in life

Children and young people with disabilities living in the city of Burgas, Bulgaria are getting the chance to live better lives thanks to a project which has built five state-of-the-art residential centres. As well as being great places to live, the new buildings offer a range of social and care services to support the development and integration of 70 youngsters who have a variety of needs.

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The centres cater for children and young people with disabilities in the city of Burgas.  © Burgas Municipality The centres cater for children and young people with disabilities in the city of Burgas. © Burgas Municipality

" This innovative project provides a new community service to support the ‘deinstitutionalisation’ and reintegration process of disadvantaged children. The project expands the range and improves the quality of social services for vulnerable groups. It brings a crucial added-value to achieving the overall objectives of Cohesion Policy in reducing economic, social and territorial imbalances, and improving the living standards of citizens in EU Member States and regions. "

Dimitar Nikolov, Mayor of Burgas

The centres have been built in different districts of Burgas and each one caters for 14 children who are supported by specially trained staff. The modern design has given special thought to the needs of young people who have previously been looked after in institutional care homes. The goal has been to develop a setting that can substitute for a family home environment.

Specialised facilities

Each centre provides the children with a bedroom (either for one or two people), which can be transformed easily to suit the needs of different age groups – from babies to adolescents. Bathrooms are fully equipped with specialised furniture and accessories including mounted lifts, wheelchairs and tactile paving.

The kitchens and dining areas in the centres have been designed to allow the children to participate in cooking and meal preparation. In addition, quiet ‘game zones’ provide space for residents to relax and to take part in group work. As much care has been taken with the outside space, with courtyards offering different areas for games and entertainment, aromatherapy sessions and physical therapy.

Modern and innovative support

While improving the region’s capacity to look after disabled youngsters, the project aims to deliver support measures which are modern, innovative and developed in accordance with best practices. The key objective is to provide the right conditions and surroundings so that the residents can make progress in their physical and intellectual development. The project, which attracted more than EUR 1.4 million from the ESF, actively encourages parents to get more involved in their children’s development.

The aim is to build skills for independent living and ensure that residents can move into adulthood with confidence and live fruitful lives. Taking the children away from more traditional institutional care also helps to address their social isolation by bringing them closer to the local communities in which they now live. In fact, the centres have been built in densely populated residential areas in order to encourage interaction between service users and local people.

Building partnerships to deliver services to the young residents has been central to the project’s success. To that end, the municipality of Burgas has established excellent working relationships with NGOs and professional bodies that provide social services to disadvantaged people.

The project, which has created 104 temporary and 62 permanent jobs, will be sustained in the future through state funding. More generally, the project marks the start of a process to deinstitutionalise care for disabled youngsters across the region.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Burgas’ Family-type Centres” is EUR 1 702 321, of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund is contributing EUR 1 446 973 from the Operational Programme “Regional Development” for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.

Draft date