On May 14, 2014 in Varna a seminar on “Europe 2020 - New Social Policies and Services, European Best Practices and Partnerships” was held. It was organized by the Social Development Agency "Vision", which is a founding member of NASO and in partnership with EASPD and Varna Municipality. Mr. Luk Zelderloo, Secretary General of EASPD, and the EASPD board members - Mrs. Bernadette Grosyeux, general manager of Centre de la Gabrielle (France) and Mr. James Crowe, Director of Learning Disabilities, (Wales) were the main speakers at the seminar. Mr. Georgi Georgiev, President of the National Alliance for Social Responsibility, moderated the seminar. Mr. Ivan Portnih, mayor of Varna, Dr. Lydia Marinova, deputy mayor of Varna, Mrs. Liubomira Komitska, director of "Social Support" and Ms. Hamza, Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Social Policy were amongst the official guests. Representatives of social service providers, NGOs and employers from Varna and Northeastern Bulgaria also attended the event.
Mr. Georgiev opened the meeting and declared the importance and fruitfulness of the partnership between local and national authorities. He also said that EASPD through NASO supports the implementation and adoption of successful European practices in Bulgaria. Agency for Social Development "Vision" has a wide experience of implementing innovative services and practices in the Bulgaria, he said. The seminar was part of the activities under the project "New Employment Services". The overall aim of the project is the realization of an international partnership with leading European providers of social services for research, compilation and adaptation of European experience in Bulgaria and providing effective social services, including a new type of service - "supported employment".
At the beginning of his presentation, Mr. Zelderloo indicated the importance of the focus on the quality of new services and social policies. The new trend in Europe is the mindset that people with disabilities should have a better place in modern society. The way to achieve a more inclusive society is by eliminating the barriers to social inclusion, and widening employment opportunities. Mrs. Grosyeux, Centre de la Gabrielle, gave an example of successful implementation of deinstitutionalization and the introduction of new employment services. Among the highlights in her presentation was the idea that the exchange of experience should be encouraged to use flexible models of services that respect the decision of the users.
The last international speaker, Mr. James Crowe, moved attention to the practices of social inclusion and employment of disabled people in Wales. He spoke briefly about the transition from the medical to the social model in the social sector in Wales, and presented the extremely innovative support service for employment in Wales – the special agency for supported employment, Elite.
To conclude the presented practices Mr. Ivan Portnih, mayor of the city, said that social policy and activities are and will always be a priority for Varna. He expressed his satisfaction that Varna has always been a pioneer in many services and social activities, as well as a very good example of cooperation between NGOs and local authorities. Social services in Bulgaria are of the highest quality and Mr. Portnih guaranteed that this tradition will not only continue but will be upgraded in the future. Upon closing the seminar, Mr. Georgiev expressed confidence in the future development of the already fruitful and traditional partnership between NASO, EASPD and Varna Municipality.
Stefana Cankova, Project and Membership Officer.