Collective complaint No. 41/2007
by the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre (MDAC) against Bulgaria
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 16 September 2010
at the 1091st meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers,1
Having regard to Article 9 of the Additional Protocol to the European Social Charter providing for a system of collective complaints;
Taking into consideration the complaint lodged on 20 February 2007 by the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre (MDAC) against Bulgaria;
Having regard to the report transmitted by the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), in which it found that legislation in Bulgaria as regards the right to education of children with moderate, severe or profound intellectual disabilities residing in homes for mentally disabled children as well as the low number of children receiving any type of education when compared to other children constitute a violation of Article 17§2 alone and taken in conjunction with Article E of the Revised Charter for the following reasons:
“With respect to Article 17§2 of the Revised Charter, the Committee recalls that only 2.8% of the children with intellectual disabilities residing in homes for mentally disabled children (HMDCs) are integrated in mainstream primary schools, which is extremely low considering that integration should be the norm. Mainstream educational institutions and curricula are not accessible in practice to these children. In addition, teachers have not been trained sufficiently to teach intellectually disabled children and teaching materials are inadequate in mainstream schools. These schools are therefore not suited to meet the needs of children with intellectual disabilities and hence to provide their education.
Only 3.4% of children with intellectual disabilities residing in HMDCs attend the special classes set up for them. Despite the fact that special classes should not be the norm but only an exception to mainstream education, the figure is very low and demonstrates that special education is not accessible to children with intellectual disabilities residing in HMDCs.
Finally, as to the activities that intellectually disabled children follow within the HMDCs, the HMDCs are not themselves to be regarded as educational institutions; consequently, the children are ineligible for a diploma attesting completion of primary school education and they are therefore prevented from entering secondary education. In addition, in practice, the children do not receive any education in the HMDCs. The activities pursued by intellectually disabled children living in HMDCs who attend neither a mainstream school nor a special class cannot be considered to be a form of education.
Any progress that has been made in Bulgaria in the field of education of children with moderate, severe or profound intellectual disabilities residing in HMDCs has been very slow and has consisted mainly of the adoption of legislation and policies (such as action plans) but little progress has been made in their implementation.
Pursuant to Article 17§2 of the Revised Charter taken in conjunction with Article E, only 6.2% of the intellectually disabled children living in HMDCs are educated in mainstream primary schools or in special schools. For the period 1997-2000, primary school attendance rates for the whole children population in Bulgaria were 93% for girls and 95% for boys. The disparity between these figures is so great that it demonstrates that there is discrimination against children with intellectual disabilities residing in HMDCs in comparison with all other children with regard to access to education in Bulgaria.”
1. Welcomes the measures already taken by the Bulgarian authorities (see Appendix to this resolution);
2. Looks forward to Bulgaria reporting that, at the time of the submission of the next report concerning the relevant provisions of the European Social Charter, the situation has been brought into full conformity.
Appendix to Resolution CM/ResChS(2010)7
Information provided by the Permanent Representative of Bulgaria on 17 May 2010 concerning Collective Complaint No. 41/2007
“With reference to Collective Complaint No. 41/2007 by the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre (MDAC) against Bulgaria, concerning the right to education of children with mental disabilities living in homes for mentally disabled children (HMDCs), based on Article 17§2 and Article E of the European Social Charter, we would like to provide the following information:
The right to education for all, regardless of health status, is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria (Article 53, paragraph1). National legislation expressly provides for the right of access to education, as well as the obligation of schools and kindergartens to work with children with special educational requirements, including children with mental disabilities. Furthermore, integrated education in the general education schools and kindergartens is explicitly provided for by the “Law on National Education” and relevant implementing regulations.
The clearly defined policy of the government in this sphere has also been that children with disabilities be integrated in general education schools. The aim is to fully develop the individual potential of every child so that they can successfully be integrated in society, regardless of whether they live with their parents or in a special care home.
The authorities are aware that certain difficulties remain, but it should be emphasised that this situation is not the result of any discriminatory practices, but of a combination of certain economic and social circumstances and related problems which the government is successfully addressing.
At the end of 2008, individual plans for the reform, restructuring or closure of all the 26 specialised institutions for children with disabilities had been developed and approved. Four auxiliary schools were closed. The competent state institutions have also been implementing a wide range of measures to provide the requisite conditions for the education of children with special educational requirements, including children with mental disabilities.
Regarding the special schools, which will continue to exist for the purpose of providing education for children with severe and multiple disabilities, their functions have been redefined. Likewise, the adequate supporting environment for the education of these children is being ensured, which includes qualified specialists, accessible physical environment, the possibility for education through individual educational programs, as well as the provision of textbooks, technical means and special equipment. As a result of the measures that have been taken, significant positive results have been achieved:
- at present, 7 351 children with special educational requirements receive education in kindergartens and in general education schools, compared to 5 573 at the beginning of 2008, which is an increase of 31.9%. It would be noted that only 1 165 of them are in a specialised institution for mentally disabled children;
- kindergartens and schools in the country, where children and pupils with special educational requirements are being taught, are 1 018 at present – i.e. 6.8% more than in 2008;
- additional personnel needed for helping children and pupils with special educational requirements has been provided – 1 087 specialised teachers, psychologists, language therapists and hearing and speech rehabilitation therapists, which is an increase of 16.5% compared to 2008;
- in 2009, 519 pedagogues working with children with disabilities in the general education environment have been trained compared to 400 in 2008 – an increase of 29.8%;
- ordinance No. 1 of 23 January 2009 on the education of children with special educational requirements and/or with chronic sickness provides for the examination and individual evaluation of the health status of children with special educational requirements (including those residing in HMDCs) by a special expert commission in the Ministry of Education, which guarantees precision and objectivity during the evaluation process and guidance of children and pupils with special educational needs, including children in institutions;
- the 28 resource centres created in 2006 are successfully working in providing integral education for children with special educational requirements. The specialists in those centres play a key role for the integration of children with special educational requirements in the general education process and to guarantee in practice these children’s right to accessible and quality education.
All children with mental disabilities are provided with equal access to the curriculum of the respective kindergartens and schools. Children and pupils who do not meet the state educational requirements for the curriculum, grade and level of education, are being educated through individual programmes based on their needs and capabilities. They are fully eligible for a diploma attesting to their completion of the respective level of education as all other pupils are. They can acquire professional qualifications in a particular subject and obtain a certificate.
Children with mental disabilities residing in special care homes have access to the same educational programmes as all the other children in accordance with their special educational needs. Irrespective of whether they receive education in general education schools or in specialised schools. With regard to children with severe or multiple disabilities their education takes place in the respective care home in which they live. They are taught by teachers from specialised schools or by specialist teachers. The headmasters of all specialised institutions for children with disabilities bear full responsibility for providing the necessary conditions for the inclusion of the children in the education system.
In addition, information campaigns involving teachers, pupils, children and parents are being conducted aimed at forming positive attitudes regarding the provision of inclusive education in the respective communities.
Furthermore, as part of its ongoing efforts, the Bulgarian Government adopted, in February 2010, a new National Strategy entitled “Vision for the deinstitutionalisation of the children of the Republic of Bulgaria”. The strategy guarantees the provision of family support and development of support services aimed at preventing children being abandoned by their parents, as well as early assessment of such risks. The strategy also provides for the creation of services for family planning and family mediation. The main efforts will focus on expanding adoptive care at the national level and encouraging adoptions as the main alternative to sending children to specialised institutions. As a result of the implementation of the strategy, the government expects in the longer term to be able to prevent children aged 0 to 3 from being sent to such institutions and, ultimately, close them.
In conclusion, since the adoption of the decision of the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), significant and concrete progress has been achieved in Bulgaria in the sphere of education of children and pupils residing in HMDCs.
In view of the positive results achieved, and considering the fact that the provision of quality education for children with mental disabilities requires permanent efforts to which the Bulgarian authorities are fully committed, it would be our proposal that a draft final resolution with respect to Collective Complaint No. 41/2007 be prepared for adoption by the Committee of Ministers at one of its forthcoming meetings.”
1 In accordance with Article 9 of the Additional Protocol to the European Social Charter providing for a system of collective complaints the following Contracting Parties to the European Social Charter or the revised European Social Charter have participated in the vote: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Turkey, Ukraine and United Kingdom.