Bulgaria Developed a Successful Model for Social Inclusion of Vulnerable Groups


Closing event of ZOV Programme, supported by the Swiss government

The social integration of Roma and other vulnerable groups in Bulgaria is proven to be successful when it is based on day-to-day work with children and young families, whereby education and health activities target simultaneously one and the same group and are supported by the commitment of state institutions, municipalities and NGOs, educational and health mediators. Over the past five years, this model has been developed and successfully implemented by the ZOV Programme (Health and Education for All) in six regional centers in Bulgaria, with the financial support of the Swiss government.

On 25 June 2019, the ZOV model will be discussed at a national conference in Sofia. Minister of Labour and Social Policy Bisser Petkov, Swiss Ambassador Muriel Berset Kohen and Deputy Minister of Education and Science Denitsa Sacheva will open the event. Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Policy Zornitsa Roussinova will take part in the discussions.

The Programme’s efforts were focused on children and young families from vulnerable groups in Plovdiv, Ruse, Burgas, Montana, Sliven and Shumen who live in extreme poverty and in isolated communities. On the Bulgarian side, the main partner of ZOV is the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, with the close involvement of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Science. The ZOV budget amounts to 8, 088, 500 CHF, of which 6, 920, 000 is the Swiss contribution and 15% is the co-financing by the three partnering ministries.

Six integrated projects were implemented with 30 partners, such as kindergartens, schools, health centers, NGOs, etc. ZOV has endorsed its strategic approach as the most efficient tool for tackling the problems of vulnerable groups: simultaneously targeting education and health activities in the same communities, and working with and through central and local institutions. 

Elena, Assen, Assie and Jesus are kids from the first kindergarten “Nadezhda”, in Nadezhda, the Roma neighbourhood in Sliven, which opened doors at the end of 2018. More than 100 children, aged 3-5 attend the kindergarten and participate in learning Bulgarian, and in arts and sports activities.  „They have dreams as all the children across the world: to become a driver, a princess, a dinosaur hunter or a teacher”, says Kindergarten Principal Katya Valeva who is quite impressed by the rapid progress of her children. Those parents who have earlier dropped out from school, see their dreams come true: kids have a chance to learn and have a better future. Next to the kindergarten, there is a health center hosting GP, paediatric and gynaecological medical offices.

Under  ZOV , in the period 2016-2018, around 2,500 new children aged 3-6, attend kindergarten and pre-school regular classes and additional Bulgarian language training, and 2,113  new children attend 1-4 grades and additional Bulgarian language training. 10,276 educational consultations and motivational meetings with parents were carried out by educational mediators in the 6 regions. In the same period, 23,471 general, paediatric and gynaecological check-ups and screenings took place in the 6 ZOV locations. 15,012 informational health-related consultations were carried out by ZOV health mediators.

 „I believe we achieved many sustainable results with relatively small funding, spent efficiently. Strategically, ZOV focused on practical and reasonable goals, careful planning leading to sustainability and joint work with central and local institutions”, says Irina Faion, ZOV Team Leader. “We do not expect our local partners to be just implementers of the Programme, we jointly addressed and resolved strategic issues. In the course of work, we helped create new skills, motivated them and I hope we did contribute to building up a more positive attitude to vulnerable groups.”  

Thanks to the joint work with state institutions and municipal authorities, most ZOV activities are already sustained, by the support of central budgets allocated to local institutions. Most of the other activities will be supported by national programmes, the EU social and educational operational programmes after 2020 and the Norway/EEA grants mechanism.

ZOV Brochure - 2019

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ZOV Programme has reached thousands of children and young families: results


Through its work in 6 target regions ZOV Progarmme has reached thousands of children, young women and families.

The numbers say a lot about the four-year work of the ZOV local teams in Shumen, Burgas, Montana, Plovdiv, Sliven and Ruse. See here the general results.


Number of children in kindergartens (3-6) in newly established groups under ZOV, including groups for Bulgarian lessons- 2 915

Number of pupils (1 - 4 grade) in newly established groups under ZOV - 2 113

Number of participants (children and parents) in events - theatre, cinema and other culture & sport events - 13 796

Number of children in extracurricular activities (children & parents clubs, green schools, trips, museums) - 8 691

Number of parents in campaigns and consultations on education - 10 276

Results in the regions: Montana, Burgas, Shumen, Plovdiv, Sliven and Ruse.


Number of general medical exams carried out by GPs/paediatricians and screenings - 18 253

Number of specialised medical examinations, incl. gynaecological examinations - 5 218

Number of medical tests - incl. HIV, syphilis, PAP smear tests, blood tests for dog tapeworms -  2 627

Number of health consultations (health mediators) - 15 012

Number of intrauterine devices - 604

Number of beneficiaries of information campaigns and events, women and health support groups - 19 665

Results in the regions: Burgas, Shumen, Plovdiv, Montana, Sliven and Ruse.

Under the ZOV Programme, 28 schools, kindergartens and health offices were newly built/renovated; 48 health and educational and health mediators have been trained, as well as 700 teachers and mediators.

See more results under the ZOV work in this presentation (in Bulgarian) of the Programme ZOV PMU.

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Програма ЗОВ: уроци и препоръки


Интегрираният модел, използван от Програма ЗОВ, се доказа като успешен и работещ за социалното включване на роми и други уязвими групи. Прилаган в шестте района на Програмата – Русе, Пловдив, Бургас, Шумен, Монтана и Сливен, той може да доведе до реални резултати и в други райони на страната.

Параметрите на този интегриран модел са:

  • Интегрирани мерки - в една и съща общност;
  • Големи градски ромски общности и малки населени места - директен и адекватен достъп;
  • Устойчивостта е планирана още при дизайна на програмите;
  • Промяна на национални политики - релевантност и застъпничество;
  • Подкрепящ мониторинг и изграждане на капацитет;
  • Развитие и укрепване на партньорствата; подобрени включващи мерки.



Въз основа на работата си на национално и местно ниво Програма ЗОВ извлече специфични уроци:

Национално ниво

  • Интегрираните мерки - да включват образование, здраве, заетост, жилища и инфраструктура;
  • Нужно е по-добро междуведомствено сътрудничество при планиране и изпълнение на интегрирани програми;
  • Необходимост от национално финансиране на Програмите за уязвими групи, за да не се разчита единствено на външно финансиране;
  • Администрирането на проекти да не е единствено контрол. Необходима е подкрепяща супервизия;


  • Нужда от насърчаване провеждането на системно здравно образование в училище;


  • Оперативна програма Здравеопазване и по-адекватно финансиране на националните програми в тази област => по добра устойчивост.

Вижте препоръките на местно ниво в презентацията на екипа на Програма ЗОВ, представен на заключителната й конференция.

Използвайки успеха на подхода и резултатите от ЗОВ, независими експерти правят подобни препоръки за работата по социалното включване на роми и други уязвими групи.
Вижте обобщение на експертката Ива Бонева в презентация, направена през юли 2019:

  • Продължаване работата с общини, с целенасочени/прагматични интервенции  за социално включване.
  • Включване на ромите/уязвимите групи в разработването и изпълнението на проекти.
  • Не само достъп до образование и здравеопазване, но и до качествени такива. Поддържане на този труден баланс с различни мерки.
  • Планиране на дейности, намаляващи риска за ефективността и устойчивостта.
  • Да се осигурят необходимите ресурси на ЗУП и ситуирането им на централно място в администрацията.
  • Укрепване на инструментите за мониторинг и оценка и прилагане на теорията на промяната.
  • Планиране  и навременно стартиране на инфраструктурни дейности. Изискване на временни решения за предоставяне на услуги, докато инфраструктурата не бъде въведена в експлоатация.


Вижте тук и още една презентация с оценки и препоръки: Дочо Михайлов, консултант по ЗОВ.

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