Where institutions are unable to offer adequate help to disadvantaged and disabled persons; when the bureaucratic processes are too cumbersome and do not take into account the real "sensitivity" of timely actions needed to support these communities, the counselling offices of Civil Movement “DNES” step in.
Image courtesy of www.dnes-bg.org
Holding Organisation: Civil Movement "DNES” TODAY – Society Against Arbitrariness Status: NGO Financing: Donations People involved in the project: Attorneys, volunteers, experts, mayors Public Partners: Local authorities Private Partners: NGOs Creation Date: February 2011 Sources & Links: www.dnes-bg.org; office.dnes.bg.org à gmail.com Contact Persons: Petar Lazarov
Civil Movement "DNES” TODAY – Society Against Arbitrariness aims to revive the traditional Bulgarian values - hard work, patriotism, integrity, respect for family, tolerance and the pursuit of education. Pooling together civil society organisations and citizens to build a well-functioning society where the interests of consumers are adequately protected is an important goal of the Movement. For this purpose it has set up reception offices in all regional cities for disadvantaged and disabled persons. Thus, they have their ‘own’ consultants in the municipalities who are sympathetic to the needs of people and understand the hardships they face. In this way, people can feel secure and included at a level that is ‘closer and more convenient for them’. The reception offices mostly receive different groups of people with disabilities and reduced mobility, people with chronic diseases, single parents, large families, victims of violence, single senior citizens.. The team of volunteer lawyers of the association is a unit, providing legal protection (free legal counsel) to people with disabilities as well as prepares legislative initiatives to support people with disabilities, inclusive of similar assistance to other groups envisaged for support within the project.
The local context
In Bulgaria there is a shortage of accessibility to different services (legal, social, administrative). The need to create conditions for disadvantaged and disabled people to be able to pose their problems in person at the relevant ‘district’ (municipal) level is enourmous. It is important that these people be included in an environment that is ‘territorially and emotionally’ close to them and that there be included integrated support. The Reception offices of Civil Movement “DNES” address this need, making their services accessible to people with disabilities and disadvantaged people in order to be their ‘best friend’ and ‘good helper’ in difficult daily life.
The starting point
What motivates us to organise the reception offices in Sofia and around the country is the huge wave of social discontent at the monopolies. Indeed, we were compelled to organise the National Citizens' Initiative “Against Arbitrariness of Monopolies”. Tens of thousands of complaints were received by Movement “Dnes” from all over the country. Furthermore, hundreds of citizens who have suffered from the arbitrariness of monopolies and mobile operators are willing to work as volunteers for the cause. At the same time however, up until now there has been no interest nor adequate responses from the competent authorities and other parties involved.
How does it work
At the different reception offices of “Dnes”, citizens can receive free legal advice and representation by filing individual and collective legal claims at the lowest rates, not only regarding anti-monopoly cases, but also regarding any issues that resulted in the violation of their civil rights. Over the past year the reception offices of “Dnes” in every major city have become increasingly popular. Many people have turned to us to help resolve a number of issues, necessitating an expansion of the scope of our activities.
Besides consultations concerning issues with the monopoly of electricity and water companies, district heating companies and mobile operators, from the beginning of the spring of 2012 our volunteer lawyers have been assisting in labour law cases, issues with credit institutions, property disputes, filling administrative documents, etc. The popularity and efficiency of our reception offices convinced the Ombudsman, Mr. Konstantin Penchev, to participate in acceptance of complaints and answer to questions in one of our large offices in Varna. Recognising the need for administrative and legal support, our volunteers also organise mobile reception offices and we have started opening reception offices in locations outside the regional centres. Currently, 31 advisory reception offices of the Movement operate all over country.
Participation and governance
We try to respond as best we can to the needs of the beneficiaries involved. The reception offices serve for guidance and problem solving, offering advice and assistance to various vulnerable groups in their interactions with state or local agencies and institutions. Activities relate to setting up a mechanism for legal advice directly from the experts of “Dnes”. Cases are monitored until a satisfactory outcome is achieved for each case.
The counselling topics are selected along two lines:
- subject matter is announced in advance ;
- based on expressed interest by the groups of people with disabilities and reduced mobility, people with chronic diseases, single parents, large families, victims of violence, single senior citizens chronically ill, single parents, large families, victims of domestic violence, single adults.
In general, the volunteers work in the reception offices for free but of course they need to have ‘their cause’ and / or ‘incentive’ to be available: a small privilege, a relative with disability or just a ‘big heart’. When it is necessary, we create a network of volunteers at the reception offices (from the region) for transportation upon request of people with disabilities in the locomotor system. Through the information about us on the Movement's website and through our volunteer coordinators at local level, the reception offices manage the search process and provision of expert support from our side.
Added value of the project
- Effective collaboration is established with various specialised institutions and employers' organisations.
- A methodology is developed for guidance, advice, problem monitoring and proposing alternative solutions.
- Periodically, (weekly or monthly) lectures or Information - Consulting Hour of the Expert can be organised at the reception offices on topics raised by various communities. This will be an opportunity to consult and inform a large number of people and at the same time to hear their views and recommendations.
We cannot afford to engage top level experts for consultation as they expect good pay. We therefore use volunteer lawyers who can only advise people in their field of expertise.
In order to extend the initiative for support to socially disadvantaged people and people with disabilities we need to organise a selection of reception premises, which have to meet the following basic requirements and working methods:
- Communication and accessible environments;
- Potential for the organisation and delivery of group consultations, lectures and training courses (at least 20 seats);
- Equipment aids for presentations (board, projector, TV, computer);
- Provision of specific conditions for adequate communication with deaf people (provision of sign language interpretation);
- Recruitment of consultant(s) (full-time or part-time) that can respond to requests and guide people with disabilities. A requirement for consultants is that have a degree and have practiced social work or psychology;
- Organisation of cultural, sporting and educational events for people in disadvantaged positions: Events will depend on the capabilities and interests of the relevant community. Activities are differentiated between a) children and young people and b) adults.
The aim is for people with disabilities to be actively involved in public life, as well as the need for the society to begin to accept, understand, support and provide actual opportunities for inclusion.
Proposals for change
In the case of adequate funding, we would expand the scope of our provision of information, advice and support to people with disabilities in the area of ‘labour law and the labour market’.
Other valuable projects
Since its establishment, and with the assistance of sociological agency ESTAT, “Dnes” performs annual monitoring of local government in various regional centres, as well as summary evaluations of the economic situation of municipalities, local authorities and politicians, the media and political promises. Indicators, against which annual monitoring is performed, are as follows: efficiency of administrative services; financial stability of the municipality; appealed public procurement procedures; absorption of EU funds; work of the local government; municipal infrastructure; and evaluation of the different aspects of municipal life.