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David Bisset, chairman of the Ruse-based organization, Equilibrium, spent 14-15th May in the Irish capital, Dublin, representing Bulgaria’s NGO community and childcare service providers at an international conference organized by the European Social Network.

Equilibrium manages services and provides extensive support to the development of new services in various Bulgarian cities. Additionally, David serves on the managing board of the NMD, a network representing Bulgarian non-profit organizations that work with or on behalf of children. The NMD is affiliated to the European Social Network which represents social service providers throughout Europe.

The conference was designed to compare structures and chilcare provisions in four European countries – Bulgarian, Ireland, Sweden and France. This peer review is being undertaken within the framework of the Network’s project – “Investing in Children Services, Improving Outcomes”. The project is undertaken in cooperation with the European Commission and provides input and commentary towards the larger programme “Investing in Children, Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage” that helps drive the EC’s action towards having national government’s work towards halving child poverty by 2020.

The conference was formally opened by Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in Ireland and participants were drawn from national and local government and senior managers from the childcare sector and NGO community. The European commission was represented by Julius Op de Beke, a senior policy analyst and Professor Hugh Frazer a specialist in Social Inclusion Policy and Practice. The other Bulgarian representatives were Pravda Ignatova from the Agency for Social Assistance, Martina Krasteva representing the State Agency for Child Protection and Sonia Blazheva from Sofia Municipality.

Participants discussed the strengths and weaknesses in the four national systems represented and the Network hopes to undertake a similar exercise in another six countries and to thereby gain a broad picture of action directed towards disadvantaged children and their families. Five areas of investment in children are being reviewed – early childhood education and care, the promotion of equal educational opportunities, actions to promote equal access to healthcare, investment in housing and living environments and, finally, family support and community-based care.

It is significant for the city of Ruse that a local organization has the capacity and know how to influence international childcare policy and practice in this manner.