On Friday 23rd March the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, played host to the launch of the ECI Agora project and conference: ‘Developing effective Early Childhood Intervention services through participation and co-production.’
Bringing together international partners and national stakeholders the conference allowed attendees to share current European models of Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) services, raise awareness of the importance of co-producing ECI services and discuss good practice examples. The event also signified the launch of the ECI Agora project, which aims to overcome the challenges in coordinating the provision of ECI services, to develop adequate early intervention systems for children with disabilities in Central and Eastern Europe.
The conference was opened by the event’s host, Mr Georgi Georgiev, President of the National Alliance for Social Responsibility (NASO) alongside Timothy Ghilain, Policy Officer at the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD). Speaking on the welcome panel, Ms Teodora Lyubenova, a state expert from the Bulgarian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy welcomed the conference and the launch of the project for the opportunities they provide, to offer recommendations for the Bulgarian system and to further develop community based, intersectional services across Europe.
NASO and EASPD were joined at the conference by the ECI Agora’s other partners who include the European network Eurlyaid, national support service providers Dizabnet, from Romania, NASSPD, from Slovakia, the Gezenguz Foundation from Hungary and the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw, Poland. The conference provided an opportunity for the partners to come together, to share and discuss European models of ECI service provision with the event’s participants.
These discussions stressed the importance of support services working collaboratively families co-productively in the provision of early intervention services. Ana Serrano, President of EuryAid emphasized that, “by including such processes, ECI systems support enhance the learning and development of children with disabilities, their full inclusion in society and their transition into school.”
Speaking at the conference Mr Ghilain, the project’s coordinator, highlighted the intention of the ECI Agora project “to provide a common voice to support social services to deliver high-quality support to children and their families.” In closing the event Mr Ghilain expressed his hope that the cooperation that had occurred between stakeholders over the course of the conference could continue within the project to further the development of ECI services.
Note to editors
The ECI Agora project aims to facilitate the development of ECI services in the partner countries of Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary. The project will begin by collecting important research on the current state of play in each partner country and best practices in the field of ECI. To facilitate the provision of high-quality, community-based, person centered ECI services the project will develop a ‘toolbox.’ This toolbox will provide practical guidance to help professionals and families develop successful models of good practice. Following the creation of the toolbox the project will work with ECI services in their communities and provide training sessions, to support the toolbox’s implementation. ‘Roadshows’ will be held in each partner country to facilitate the development of ECI services at a national level and help to create ECI support networks. The project, which is funded by the Velux Foundation will run for 28 months, from January 2018 to April 2020.