Why Study Visits are Inspirational

02.11.12

Lumos and Sheffield City Council's Children and Family Services recently hosted a study visit for another Bulgarian delegation involved in the design of community-based services for children leaving large institutional homes in the country. The group first looked at a variety of housing, support and care services for adults run by the Enable Group, a Derbyshire-based charity, and then spent two days visiting services run by Sheffield City Council, including those for children with disabilities, foster care services, special schools, residential homes, children's centres, support and prevention services and transition services.

The delegation, which included two deputy Mayors and other decision makers, were particularly interested in finding out more about the recruitment, training and support of staff in small group homes. Bulgaria plans to close 24 large institutions for children with disabilities and build 149 small group homes as one form of alternative community-based care and it is essential that the staff in the new services are prepared and supported in the right way to meet the needs of the children. The participants found it useful to hear from parents of children with disabilities about their experience of caring for their children and were impressed by the commitment of both parents and the carers working in different services. They were especially touched by individual stories, such as the family who had recently adopted a child with disabilities, whom they had fostered before, and who were also currently fostering a second child with special needs.

One of the participants said: "It was really important for us to come and see how local services worked in practice; it is one thing to hear about the options in theory but another to come and experience this for ourselves."

Bisser Spirov, Training Officer at Lumos Bulgaria, commented: "It was really inspiring to meet the staff from social services and to see how motivated and dedicated they are. Not only did we see good services, but also people who care about the children."

Councillor Jackie Drayton, Sheffield City Council's Cabinet member for Children, Young People and Families, said: "We were delighted to welcome this delegation and share our experience in providing good quality services for young people with disabilities. I hope the trip offered a valuable insight into the wide range of services available in Sheffield that they may be able to adapt for use in Bulgaria. We look forward to welcoming them back to Sheffield again in the future."

"It is one thing to hear about the options in theory but another to come and experience this for ourselves."

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