On October 4 and 5, the Eurochild’s board members visited Sofia for their annual Management Board meeting and additionally held a series of meetings with key Bulgarian institutions to improve the partnership with the legislative and executive authorities in the context of the forthcoming Presidency of the Council of the EU which Sofia will take over in January 2018.
On October 4, Eurochild’s board members were invited to participate in a plenary session of the Parliamentary Committee on Children, Youth and Sports. The topic of the discussion was “The children, the state budget and the long-term investment in the human capital of the nation”. The meeting was organized after an initiative by the National Network for Children. The meeting was attended by MPs, members of the Committee, and representatives of several ministries – the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the State Agency for Child Protection, the Institution of the Ombudsman and others.
Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General of Eurochild, made presentation on investments in children. She presented the European experience and a pilot instrument Childonomics, which has been successfully tested in Romania and Malta, and which helps governments plan and optimize spending so as to maximize the impact for children and for the entire economy of the country. “Unfortunately, 50% of children in Bulgaria live at risk of poverty and social exclusion and the cycle of poverty continues generation after generation,” she said. Mrs. Hainsworth also shared ideas on how Bulgarian institutions could make the utmost out of of EU support and how to coordinate different institutions and experts to optimize budget planning and spending.
“Only between 2% and 3% are the expenses in the budget of the Bulgarian state are related to children and all of us know it is extremely insufficient”, the Executive Director of the National Network for Children, Mr. Georgi Bogdanov, shared during the meeting at the Parliament.
Investments in early childhood development have the highest return, Bogdanov said. He pointed out that investment in the hotel business, for example, is returned after 30-40 years, while investment in children returns much faster and brings more sustainable results, many of which are immeasurable and bring additional benefits to the whole society, not just to the individual. These include building a more productive population with higher values.
Bogdanov pointed out that if for example, the state covered a kindergarten fee for one child, which amounts to BGN 600 per year, this can be measured in time and could be returned as an investment. After the 40th year of the person, the return from this investment amounts to BGN 14 261 per year. “The more we slow down on investment for children, the more difficult and costly will be for us to repair the damage to our economy and society,” Bogdanov added.
We need to invest more in healthcare, education and in the so-called universal services instead of investing in targeted services such as foster care, small-group homes, explained the representatives of the National Network for Children. They are more expensive and less efficient as an expense. According to Georgi Bogdanov, institutions need to concentrate their efforts on the rational use of money.
Earlier the same day the Eurochild delegation met with Ms. Zornica Rusinova, Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Policy, and discussed some upcoming steps and strategic priorities in view of the forthcoming Presidency of the Council of the EU.
Meetings with key donors, such as Oak Foundation and the Secretariat of the Network and some key member organizations were also held during the visit of the Board in Sofia.