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27 January 2003

The recent amendments of the Bulgarian Social Assistance Act were published in the Official Gazette on 29 of December 2002. They entered into force on 1 of January 2003. The essence of the amendments can be formulated as follows:

I. The social assistance activities are organized on the basis of new philosophy and goals, laid down in the law. For example one of the goals of the law is to promote the development of social solidarity in order the different sections of the society, including the non-profit sector, to work jointly in the field of social assistance. The changes in the law aim to encourage social enterprising in the field of social assistance through diversity of social services and social services providers. The idea is physical persons and different legal entities including Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) to be encouraged to deliver social services along with the municipalities and the state. (Article 1, item 1, 2, 5 of the Social Assistance Act)

II. The social services are considered as part of the social assistance. The Social Assistance Act gives new legal definition of the term “social services”. The new definition is broader in comparison with the previous one. Now the “social services” are described as activities aiming to promote and enlarge the possibilities of the individuals to have independent way of life. The social services are delivered in specialized institutions and in the community.

III. In accordance with art. 4 paragraphs 3 and 4, NPOs acting in public benefit have important role in policy making in the sphere of social assistance. Representatives of NPOs in public benefit participate in the Social Assistance Council, public consultative organ in the field of social assistance, acting under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.

IV. The social services are based mainly on social work and their aim is to create better conditions and opportunities for the recipient of these services to participate of full value in social life, not to isolate the individual and to institutionalize the services. As a result the social institutions, delivering now greater part of social services will loose their role and the social services will be diversified and delivered in the community, which creates better opportunities for NPOs to develop alternative forms of social services.

V. The social services providers are: the state, the municipalities, physical persons registered under the Commercial Code and legal entities. In the term legal entities implicitly are included NPOs. The legal entities, including NPOs may deliver social services after registration in a Register at the Social Assistance Agency /new organ created at the Ministry of Labour and Social policy/. The rules for the registration shall be provided for in the Rules for Implementation of the Social Assistance Act. /The Rules of Implementation now are in process of drafting/. For the providers of social services for children there is an additional requirement – the provider to receive a license. Social services may be delivered with the joint participation of the state, municipalities, physical persons, registered under the Commercial Code and legal entities including NPOs. On one hand, for the first time the law sets for the legal possibility the mayor to assign the management of the social institutions in the region to social providers registered at the Social Assistance Agency, including NPOs .On the other hand, the activities in the sphere of social services shall be assigned to the providers of social services through a competition. The requirements and the procedure for the competition shall be regulated in the Rules for the Implementation of the Social assistance Act. For the first time the Ministry of labour and Social policy is under the obligation to develop National standards for the quality of social services and all social services providers in their activity shall meet these standards. The non-execution of the standards will be a reason the particular social services provider to be erased from the register of the Social Assistance Agency.

VI. The social services provider may apply for funding from the Social Assistance Fund. According to the amendments The Social Assistance Fund will accumulate finds from the budget, from endowments and donations, from taxes paid for licensing, 30% of the taxes paid for the delivery of social services shall be transferred to this fund. In the fund shall be transferred revenues from the state lottery. As a result the fund will be able to finance social projects submitted by the providers of social services, including NPOs.
VII. In the Social Assistance Act are abolished all discriminatory to NPOs provisions.

VIII. In the Local Taxes and Fees Law (related to the reform in the Social Assistance Act) has been abolished the discriminatory provision requiring social institutions established as NGOs to return to the state the positive difference between the fees they receive and the expenses they have made each year.