Social services

Social services in Bulgaria have a key role in preventing and overcoming the social exclusion of vulnerable groups in the society. Support provided through social services helps these groups to fully participate in the community, realize their rights and improve quality of their life. The policy in the field of social services aims at guaranteeing equal access to social services that meet persons’ individual needs, guaranteeing the quality and effectiveness of social services, guaranteeing the right of every person to support for living in a home environment and in the community, as well as promoting an integrated approach in providing support to persons. These are also the main goals of the Social Services Act (promulgated, SG No. 24 of 22.03.2019, in force from 1.07.2020), through which the reform in the field of social services is carried out. The Social Services Act is the first special law that regulates all issues relevant to the social services sector in Bulgaria. It regulates the commitments of the state, municipalities, private providers and other stakeholders in the processes of provision, using, planning, financing, quality, control and monitoring of social services. Among its goals are the promotion and development of the public-private partnership in the provision of social services.

The right to social services have all persons who need support that can be provided through social services, not only persons from vulnerable groups. Social services are based on social work, individual approach and individual assessment of needs. Social services are provided only according to the wish and personal choice of the users. When providing services, the rights, freedoms, dignity and personal integrity of the persons are not allowed to be violated, as well as any direct or indirect discrimination based on any signs established by the law or by an international treaty to which the Republic of Bulgaria is a party. When using social services, priority is given to the support in home environment and in the community. The use of residential care is allowed only when the possibilities for supporting persons through social services in a home environment and in the community have been exhausted.

With regards to the main groups of activities, there are 10 types of social services - information and counselling, advocacy and mediation, community work, therapy and rehabilitation, training for the acquisition of skills, support for acquiring occupational skills, day care, residential care, provision of shelter and assistant support. Social services can also be profiled according to different characteristics such as purposes, functions, users, specific needs, duration and modality of use, environment, organization.

The main providers of social services in Bulgaria are the municipalities. Social services can also be delivered by private social service providers. These are Bulgarian natural persons registered under the Commerce Act and legal persons, as well as natural persons carrying out commercial activities and legal persons registered under the legislation of another member state of the European Union or of another state party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area. Municipalities are responsible for the provision of social services, financed by the state and municipal budgets, through organization and implementation of all activities on their own, through legal entities specially established for the provision of social services, as well as by outsourcing the provision of social services to private social service providers. The legal entities specially created by the municipalities for the provision of social services and private providers of social services can deliver the services on the territory of the country after obtaining a license issued by the Executive Director of the Agency for the Quality of Social Services. The Social Services Act provides greater freedom and more opportunities for providers to adopt flexible approaches in the organization and management of social services. They can decide for themselves how to organize the provision of services and how to manage them by applying the principles of providing easy-to-access services, complex support through various activities, effective and efficient management of services, flexible use, guidance and management of specialists engaged with different activities, high efficiency of the financing resources.