“They bought a private house to open a social service centre”
The story of Chmyrivska community
Social services are being discussed more and more. Why is this? First of all, there are new social groups in the country that need these services. For example, internally displaced people, veterans and other groups affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The other reason is the decentralization reform, which gives new powers and responsibilities to local self-government. Like the obligation to establish high-quality social service systems at local level. This requires heads of communities to understand how to move towards a new format of social services, which may be quite difficult. The story of Chmyrivska community is a story of how to choose the path of change.
About 8,000 residents live in an area of over 200 square kilometres. This is what Chmyrivska community in Luhanska Oblast looks like. Since 2017, the Centre for Social Services has been functioning here. The truth is that it was not a centre in its true sense. There was no building, and the personnel worked in a rented room. This, in turn, significantly limited the range of services provided there.
Therefore, the local authorities decided to join UNICEF’s “Spilno: Social services in communities” project, supported by the Government of Germany and the German Development Bank (KfW). This project is being implemented by five capable civil society organizations, led by the Ukrainian Network for the Rights of the Child: leaders in the area of social services for children. This is a pilot project: only 12 communities were selected to participate. One of the criteria for selection was to provide a building to be duly equipped as a multifunctional social service centre.
Chmyrivska community did not have an appropriate building. But Serhiy Voitenko, Community Head, came up with a solution: to buy a private house that met the requirements.
“There are families in need requiring social services. In fact, improving social services for people in the community is one of our priorities. That is why it was vital for us to take part in the project,” comments Serhiy Voitenko. “We have been eyeing this private house for a long time. It is very convenient, close to the main road, with easy access. We really thought about it for different purposes. But as UNICEF gave us the opportunity to turn it into a multifunctional centre, train social workers and increase the number of services for our people, we had to take advantage of it. The social sector is very important for us.”
Currently, the building is being renovated. A survey was conducted of 64 local families; the results reveal that support services for vulnerable families are the most requested in Chmyrivka community. It is also planned for the centre to provide day care, counselling, speech therapy and social educator services.
Thanks to SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine, the Spilno project implementing partner in Chmyrivka, 13 vulnerable families have been identified in the community. These are families, including internally displaced families, that require social services. A comprehensive local needs assessment led to identification of a family raising a child with disabilities that had been unknown until recently. This is an internally displaced family that had never sought community-based social services.
“It is easy to work with the community to organize project processes,” comments Svitlana Tuntuyeva, Project Coordinator at SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine. “The community head is very interested in the project; he takes part in all the discussions and attends every project activity. The deputy heads are always in touch with us. It's nice to implement a project that’s serving the interests of a community. However, with regard to social services themselves in the community it’s a bit more difficult: there are not enough specialists to build up the system, and we need to teach new ones and build the capacity of those who are already there.”
Currently, future employees of the centre are receiving all the training they need. Tetyana Dyachenko, Director of the Chmyrivskyi Centre for Social Services, shares her impressions from the training: “I am very grateful for this experience. The project has helped us finally to gain the knowledge we need. For example, I have been trained in case management, community needs assessment and supervision. We are now able to identify new families facing certain risks that were not previously recorded. We also keep in touch with one of the trainers.”
The next steps towards establishing a quality social service system in Chmyrivka community will be to hold a public discussion, harmonize the list of social services and develop a local programme for social service provision with support from the local budget. The first goal will be to develop a protocol of cooperation and exchange of information on social issues between various divisions of the village council. SOS Children's Villages is also supporting the development of recommendations on how to calculate the costs of social services. This will all eventually contribute to bringing social services as close to the real needs of people as possible.
The project is being implemented by UNICEF and five implementing partners chaired by the “Ukrainian Child Rights Network” Civil Association, with financial support from the Government of Germany and the German Development Bank (KfW). The project’s implementing partners are: SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine, Partnership for Every Child, Social Synergy, Hope and Homes for Children and Mariupol Youth Union.