Title: The Framework Conditions for Social Work in Bulgaria: Social Policies, Labour Laws, Migration and Cultural Diversity
Address: Kaneff Center, “Angel Kanchev” University of Ruse, ul. “Studentska” 8, 7017 Studentski grad, Ruse
Date: 20.09.2022 – 21.09.2022
In the context of our Erasmus+ project “Transnational Social Services” we are organising a conference in Ruse/Bulgaria on September 20. and 21. on the subject of “The Framework Conditions for Social Work in Bulgaria: Social Policies, Labour Laws, Migration and Cultural Diversity”. Experts from social sciences and politics will give an introduction to the Bulgarian social system and will be available for questions. Especially those of you who support mobile advice seekers in and from Bulgaria can get extensive information about the Bulgarian social system and use the opportunity for networking.
Hybrid event: You can participate live in Ruse or online via a link we will provide shortly before the event. The event is in Bulgarian with simultaneous German translation.
Tuesday, 20 September 2022, morning: focus on social policy, labour law, migration.
Wednesday, 21 September 2022, morning: Focus on Cultural Diversity and Vulnerable Groups
Since the start of our project TSS – Transnational Social Services in May 2022, we have been preparing this first meeting together and on 20 September the time had finally come: the advanced training seminar in Ruse started according to plan!
In addition to the project partner organizations , the Regional Employment Service Directorate – Ruse, the Vocational school in Byala as well as the Bulgarian Red Cross Regional Council – Ruse and Ruse Catholic Organization Caritas were actively involved in the program. Further participants were representatives of the Regional Social Assistance Directorate – Ruse, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria – Ruse and the “Angel Kanchev” University of Ruse. Staff members from various diaconal institutions and from “Arbeit und Leben” travelled from Hamburg.
On the first day, the participants received an informative overview of the socio-economic situation in Bulgaria with a special focus on inequalities in labor and employment by Dr. Stoyanka Cherkezova (IPHS Sofia) as a part of a hybrid Conference at the Kanev Centre of the University of Ruse. In her lecture Dr. Cherkezova also pointed out the reasons and effects of emigration from Bulgaria and the connection between ethnicity and migration. Another important aspect was the question of how people inform themselves before migration. Afterwards, local representatives of governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations in the field of labor and social assistance were given the opportunity to present their services.
On the first day, the participants received an informative overview of the socio-economic situation in Bulgaria with a special focus on inequalities in labour and employment by Dr. Stoyanka Cherkezova (IPHS Sofia) as a part of a hybrid Conference at the Kanev Centre of the University of Ruse. In her lecture Dr. Cherkezova also pointed out the reasons and effects of emigration from Bulgaria and the connection between ethnicity and migration. Another important aspect was the question of how people inform themselves before migration. Afterwards, local representatives of governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations in the field of labour and social assistance were given the opportunity to present their services.
The numerous online participants from Germany focused the discussion on aspects of social legislation and the legal basis for anti-discrimination programmes. As has been shown, frequently changes of social legislation leads to constantly changing strategies for implementation and lack of planning reliability on behalf of those working in the social sector and in Bulgarian society in general. The general adaptation to EU-wide equality standards was emphasized as positive.
In the afternoon the participants in Ruse met again at a round table, where the situation of mobile EU citizens from Bulgaria was discussed very lively. Questions such as what information potential migrants need, how they can be reached and whether social counsellors in the foreign country provide job search were focused. Aspects such as the different perceptions of the target group as well as the phenomena of emigration, immigration and return migration have been explained and illustrated. Transnational cooperation could prove effective in providing more sustainable support, especially for groups that are already considered vulnerable before emigration.
At the end of the afternoon programme the group from Hamburg visited different departments of the Regional Employment Service Directorate – Ruse and talked with the staff about similarities and differences in the support of job seekers.
The first training day finished with a guided tour of the old town of Ruse, one of the most important cities in Bulgaria, situated on the Danube and directly on the border to Romania.
First day of Advanced Training Seminar in Ruse
The second training day started with a profound analysis on exclusion practices in Bulgaria’s ethnic minorities. Prof. Ilona Tomova (IPHS Sofia) inspired the participants of the hybrid conference not only with her historical and sociological insights, but also with her committed naming of the ongoing challenges in the social coexistence of Bulgaria’s diverse population groups. She referred to the discrepancy between the legal framework and the structural and everyday discrimination faced by members of minority groups.
In the afternoon, the group from Hamburg visited a best-practice example of how these challenges are being overcome in Byala, a small town nearby Ruse with a large Roma minority. Staff members of the Vocational school in Byala gave a vivid impression of everyday school life in a multi-ethnic community. We learned that the success of the work is due in particular to the bond that has been built between the teachers, the mediators, the pupils and their families. The mediators support the pupils with homework and motivation, they mediate between parents, teachers and pupils and they are ‘role models’.
The school has a long list of successful graduates. It was able to maintain its position even in times of the pandemic and to manage the transition to digital teaching mainly from its own resources through the high commitment of teachers and mediators. The discussion revealed that preparation for life abroad has hardly been part of the curriculum so far, although many of the students migrate after graduation. The school also has a high proportion of students who spend time abroad during their school years. A major challenge then is to assign them to classes according to their level of knowledge and to lead them to graduation.
Second day of Advanced Training Seminar in Ruse
Getting to know social projects in Ruse was continued on the third and fourth day of the training, when the project partner BRTMI introduced itself at its spaces in Ruse as well as further NGOs as Caritas and Red Cross.
The first effects of the expert trip were already evident in the concluding discussions. The travel group from Hamburg had become so familiar with the Bulgarian social system that differences in the social care could be pointed out and comparisons between the care systems could be targeted. On the other hand, the Bulgarian organizations were getting increasingly curious to learn more about the social system in Germany and the situation of mobile EU citizens from Bulgaria.
We are therefore looking forward to networking in the follow-up events such as half-day webinars and an expert trip to Hamburg. There we will continue to explore the potentials of transnational cooperation of social services.
Third day of Advanced Training Seminar in Ruse
8:15 – 9:00 am
Socio-economic situation of Bulgarian citizens. Labour and employment inequalities
Speaker: Assoc Prof Dr Stoyanka Cherkezova (IPHS Sofia)
9:45 – 10:25 am
Social Legislation in Bulgaria: legal structures and practical impacts
Speakers: Representatives of Regional Employment Service Directorate of Ruse and of Social Assistance Directorate
9:00 – 9:30 am
Cultural diversity, identity and intercultural sensitivity (including vulnerable ethnic and other minorities) Part 1
Prof Dr Ilona Tomova (IPHS Sofia)
10:15 – 10:45 am
Cultural diversity, identity and intercultural sensitivity (including vulnerable ethnic and other minorities) Part 2
Prof Dr Ilona Tomova (IPHS Sofia)