Strategy in Action - stakeholders united around a common position for the protection of children with intellectual disabilities ...
Strategy in Action - stakeholders united around a common position for the protection of children with intellectual disabilities from violence
24 January 2017
From January 20th, 2017, a new informal platform is underway, composed of Bulgarian lawyers and advocates for the rights of children with intellectual disabilities. The mission of the platform is to gather advocates in search of the best mechanisms and approaches for effective protection of children with intellectual disabilities from the violations of their rights.

In times in which we are swamped by strategic policies and strategic documents issued by state institutions, statistics continue to show alarming levels of violations of children's rights, including cases of violence against children with disabilities in residential services, schools and family environment. Despite the efforts of the state to ensure their full inclusion and adequate protection, the risks of abuse and other forms of visible and invisible violence against children remains real, as the access to justice - very limited. On this occasion a group of lawyers and experts in the field of human rights held a meeting on January 20th, 2017, at the City Library in Sofia. The meeting was attended by lawyers from across the country, representatives of the State Agency for Child Protection (SACP), the Presidency, the Office of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria, the National Network for Children (NNC), Bulgarian Association for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (BAPID), "Parallel world" Association - a social services provider, Mental Disability Advocacy Center (MDAC) and the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law (BCNL) as the organizer of the event.

The interested parties agreed on the necessity for change not only in legal framework, but especially in the practice of its implementation and the provision of greater awareness of both children and their families about the opportunities they have for protection. The observations are that in recent years there are too many changes in the legislation, without analyzing seriously and thoroughly whether the problem is not actually in the law implementation. And this is because institutions often apply automatically the normative texts without seeking the "spirit" of the law. Additionally, more effort should be made by all sides (government institutions, courts, legal aid providers, educational, health and social services) to improve the access to information in easy to read version for all children in order to be adequately informed about their own rights and remedies they can use to protect themselves.

According to the participants in the meeting a key role in the process will have the lawyers working in the field of human rights and human rights organizations because of their high level of commitment that can have a significant impact and positive support on the processes of change - as advocates in the legal practice that changes the life of concrete children and families. The Ombudsman of Republic of Bulgaria was identified as the public institution that can strengthen and involve other stakeholders in the process.

The results of the meeting will be put into a strategic document, prepared by the BCNL team with the support of the Mental Disability Advocacy Center (MDAC) for Bulgaria, than it will be spread among stakeholders in Bulgaria. The final document will be presented in May 2017 at an official event in Brussels in the presence of members of the European institutions.

The meeting on the topic: „BETTER APPROACHES TO PROTECT CHILDREN WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES FROM CHILD ABUSE - STRATEGY IN ACTION" is part of the "Innovating European lawyers to advance rights of children with disabilities, JUST / 2014 / RCHI / AG / PROF / 7362, funded by the European Union.

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