A total of 1,638 children and 1,223 parents from marginalized communities have received social service coverage in the period from April to December 2021 from 7 mobile teams supporting disadvantaged communities. The teams were established within the European Child Guarantee Pilot Project in Bulgaria, which is funded by the European Commission and is implemented with UNICEF’s support.
Over 200 children mainly of Roma origin received access to education and health care, and 320 parents received access to social benefits and other services.
To set up the seven mobile teams operating within the project, a total of 22 additional social workers and associates were hired last year at the Community Support Centres (CSCs) in seven pilot municipalities – Burgas, Kazanlak, Kotel, Sliven, Sredets, Stara Zagora and Tvarditsa. (More about the project – here).
The mobile teams visit families from marginalized communities on site and assess their needs. Their aim is to identify any risks related to child care and protection, such as illness or undiagnosed disabilities, or lack of access to health, education, social services, social benefits or poor housing conditions. Based on the assessment of the family, individual support is tailored to the family’s specific needs, which includes individual counselling, information sharing and facilitating access to key services and/or social support to which the family is entitled. The teams work together to combine social assistance and child protection services on to ensure comprehensive support for parents and children.
Social workers are able to build trust in communities which are remote and traditionally closed off from most prevention and support services. Some of the newly hired professionals originate from the communities they are serving, which facilitates building trust between families and social services.
The teams also develop special programmes targeted at families which are related to family planning, prevention of early marriage, prevention of child separation from families, as well as improving inclusion of the children within the education system. (You can read more about the work under the educational support programmes here)
Over the period June–December 2021, an additional 11 social workers were newly appointed in 10 Child Protection Departments, working on 194 cases with children.
“The mobile team works actively with families for whom medium and high risk has been reported; low-risk families are also provided with mediation and advocacy support before the relevant educational, health and social institutions,” explained the team at the Community Support Centre in Burgas.
“This way of working through mobile teams, on site with people, sometimes with daily visits is in my view, the best approach to build trust and provide adequate support”, pointed out Elena, who is a member of the mobile team at the Community Support Centre in Sredets. “This approach should be adopted everywhere, because people cannot be expected to cope on their own when they do not have information on where and how they can get support”, she added.
Source: UNICEF Bulgaria