We interview Personal Assistance users from different countries on a regular basis. In August 08, ENIL PR Officer Tanja Richter talked to Vanya Pandieva.
Vanya lives in the Bulgarian capital Sofia and is a member of the local
Centre for Independent Living. We talked to her when she
visited the CIL Bad Kreuznach in Germany. Both centres have set up a
cooperation thanks to funding by a German lottery.
TR: How is your assistance funded?
VP: It is funded by the city of Sofia. Being able to have Personal Assistance is a very recent development we have fought for for years. We have had discussions with local authorities for many years and Sofia adopted a PA scheme only at the end of 2007. This is a local scheme and not a national one for the whole of Bulgaria. That makes the raising of awareness difficult, too, because of this limited access to PA. We try to be a good example in Sofia. The fact that they even adopted this regulation was a big compromise because we are not very flexible.
Persons with disabilities are not the employers, it is the city. The city also determines the number of hours that you need PA by classifying you, but it turned out that the numbers often do not match the reality. But we cannot change that because we are not the employer. This is also a fact that makes it difficult for PA users. Therefore we want to endorse a scheme that allows us to be the employer like in other countries. But this is a very slow process.
How do you manage your Personal Assistance?
The Bulgarian Personal Assistance Scheme is not well developed. So far, I have only one assistant and had difficulty even finding this one. I succeeded only after long efforts to find an assistant. Few people want to work as assistants. They want to have easier jobs with less responsibility which are well paid. This is an area where we have a lot of work to do also as regards information about what PA means, what are the tasks, what are the advantages. I am still in the process of looking for assistants. The fact that I have only one assistant also leads to difficulties in my daily life. I sometimes do not know what I will do next week, yet have to make a schedule for the assistant.
How did you manage before Sofia introduced PA?
I stayed with my parents and family. I always relied on my family, in my childhood as well as when I went to university.