Disability Watchdog: Misdirection of funds in Bulgaria

Issue Addressed

Continued misdirection of funds and wasted opportunities to ensure the
social inclusion of disabled people in Bulgaria.

Measurement taken

Resignation of Kapka Panayotova
Bulgarian Ambassador for the European Year of Combating Poverty and Social
Exclusion see following letter:


To whom it may concern,

Please, consider this letter my formal notice of official resignation as
one of the Bulgarian Ambassadors for the European Year of Combating Poverty and
Social Exclusion.

My decision to resign has been difficult yet unavoidable given the
continued misdirection of funds and wasted opportunities to ensure the social
inclusion of disabled people in Bulgaria.
Currently Bulgarian policies reinforce exclusion by continuing to support
segregated and institutional exclusion in which disabled individuals are denied
the basic human right to make everyday decisions about their own lives.

As a social policy professional who has worked on numerous EU social
inclusion programmes – as well as a disabled person and advocate for the human
rights of disabled people – I find it unacceptable that the majority of
resources allocated to social services are invested in day care centres,
sheltered housing, special enterprises for disabled people and, generally, in
service providers who are in full control of their clients’ lives. Parallel
systems in the pubic sector services contribute to further exclusion and
segregation including so-called ‘special’ housing, transport and schools.

These measures serve to keep disabled people segregated from the
mainstream. This runs contrary to all recognised international and European
good practice. The international disability movement and governments of other
European Union Member States have recognised that there cannot be effective
inclusion unless structures for peer support, empowerment and proper inclusion
mechanisms are put in place. No such projects are being funded in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria has an enormous opportunity now to use European Structural Funds to
support positive changes: as you know, some
1,031 million is available
through the European Social Fund Human Resources Development (HRD) programme
alone. However, Bulgaria’s
HRD Operational Programme lacks consistency between its goals, objectives and
activities. The desired outcomes are admirable but unless the approach is
changed these will remain unachievable in Bulgaria.

I believe a critical evaluation of the projects funded under the HRD
Operational Programme of the European Social Fund must be carried out. Once such a review has been completed, I hope
that the Bulgarian Government will ensure that efforts are focused on making
mainstream public services genuinely accessible to disabled people – i.e. that
these are physically adjusted, disability aware and capable of accommodating
the many and varied needs of disabled
people, as determined by disabled people
themselves
.

If such a review is not continued, it is clear that European finances
will be wasted. It is therefore critical that this takes place and that any
reports produced are made available to the public to guarantee full accountability
and transparency.

Until such time as there has been a review and it is clear that European
investment is being intelligently and meaningfully targeted I cannot act as
Ambassador for an initiative which I believe will be detrimental for disabled
people.

I look forward to receiving official confirmation from you that my
resignation has been acknowledged. I
also hope to be kept informed regarding your position on the effectiveness and
efficiency of the ways in which the Bulgarian Government is absorbing EU
finances to combat poverty and social exclusion.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss any of the issues
which I have raised, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours faithfully,

Kapka Panayotova

Disability
Advocate

Executive
Director

Centre
for Independent Living

Sofia, Bulgaria

Board Member of the European Network for Independent
Living

Board Member of the Institute for Independent Living

Results

Raise awareness through the advocacy for this issue by the writing and the
distribution of the letter of resignation.

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