New fit-for-purpose homes for children with disabilities

Institutionalised children with disabilities in Bulgaria are being moved to modern, specially adapted accommodation and tailored support services made available.

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Modern, family-style homes, specifically adapted for children with disabilities. Modern, family-style homes, specifically adapted for children with disabilities.

Bulgaria has put in place a national action plan to dismantle 130 large scale children’s homes and move all children and young people currently in these institutions into alternative, suitable accommodation, and put in place the necessary support services, within a 15 year timeframe.

This plan has received funding from the EU of more than EUR 100 million from various funds: the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

Moving into the community

Part of the work is a four-year project, “Childhood for All”, which began in 2010 and targets some 1 654 children (from aged three years onwards) and young people with physical and intellectual disabilities who currently live in specialised institutions around the country.

Its overall aim is to bring about a shift in the way children with disabilities, an especially vulnerable group, are cared for in Bulgaria. Each child/young person will be able to access community-based support services according to their individual needs and have the opportunity to live with family or in a family-style environment. These services are currently not sufficiently developed and available for all in need. Equally, suitable accommodation is not always available and needs to be renovated or built. Thanks to the project, children/young adults will have equal access to services and be cared for in the community, thus encouraging their inclusion in Bulgarian society.

Tailor-made homes for the future

The project focuses mainly on the first part of this process, namely preparing and implementing the transfer of children/young adults with disabilities from institutions into suitable housing.

In the framework of the project, a grant scheme has been launched under the Operational Programme "Regional Development" to provide funds to 62 municipalities to build, repair, equip and furnish accommodation. Energy efficient measures are being installed in the buildings, including insulation, double-glazing and links to efficient heating supplies. The buildings are being equipped so that they are able to benefit from renewable energy sources as a means of meeting their energy needs. Equipment and furniture are also being provided that are adapted to the children’s care needs.

Under the grants distributed so far the construction of a total of 133 family-type housing centres and 27 protected homes is planned in towns or cities throughout the country.  Another 16 family-type housing centres and 9 protected homes will also be funded through the Rural Development Programme.

For Denitsa Nikolova from the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works, the project’s main objective is “to improve the lives of children with disabilities from Bulgarian institutions and to create a model for transformation of specialised institutions for children into alternative and innovative community services.” She also notes it “illustrates effectively how EU funds can complement each other” as the project is financed by both the ERDF and the ESF. 

Total investment and EU funding

The scheme “Support for deinstitutionalisation of social institutions providing services to children in risk” has a total investment of EUR 54 700 000 with the EU’s ERDF contributing EUR 46 500 000. It is part of the “Childhood for All” project and is funded through the priority “Sustainable and Integrated Urban Development” of the Operational Programme "Regional Development" for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.

Draft date