Sure Start Central and Eastern Europe Initiative


The team of Tulip Foundation started a new programme for introducing the Sure Start Programme and its development in Hungary over the last 10 years to civil organisations from Central and Eastern Europe. The aim is to identify opportunities for introducing the programme in other counties in the region.

The programme is realised with the support of Oak Foundation and co-funding from Tulip Foundation.

The Sure Start programme has been initiated in the United Kingdom at the end of the 90-s with the aim to overcome child poverty and social exclusion of children from disadvantaged communities, who have limited access to services. The programme is implemented in stages since 1999. Some 500 local groups have been established that reach some 4 million children. 

The programme is developed in two main areas – encouragement of the social and emotional development, protection of the health of children and improving the skills and the abilities through support for the family as a community. 

The programme is based on inter-sectorial cooperation and civil organisations. It is implemented through local initiatives aimed at equal opportunities for children from birth to the age of 6 years as well as overcoming of negative effects of child poverty on health, social wellbeing, cognitive development and just care relevant to the needs of children at different age. It provides support at many different levels for families with children living in underdeveloped regions, villages, urban neighborhoods and complexes.

The adaptation and the introduction of the programme in Hungary begins in 2003-2004 in 5 pilot locations – a city, a town, a village, isolated places with high unemployment rate. It is based on the UK experience. The programme has been adapted and developed in Hungary with the support of the EU between 2006 and 2014. By 2016 there are 114 children houses with different form of management – municipality, church, NGO, coalition of NGOs and municipality. These houses serve some 12 000 children. The programme is now part of the national legislation for protection of children, which guarantees sustainability of state funding.

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Maria Herczog shared the lessons learned from the adaptation and the development of the Sure Start Programme in Hungary.

Tulip Foundation organised a presentation of the adaptation and the implementation of the Sure Start programme in Hungary so that professionals from various spheres in Bulgaria get to know in details the way it functions and the effect of it. Zornitsa Roussinova, deputy minister of labour and social policy, and Diana Kovacheva, deputy Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria opened the event.

Especially for the presentation of the programme Dr. Ph.D. Maria Herczog, a researcher, a lecturer, an activist, former member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and President of Eurochild, Chair of the board of Family, Child, Youth Association was in Sofia.

She shared the lessons learned from the adaptation and the implementation of the Sure Start Programme in Hungary on 30 May at a seminar in SOHO hall. More than 30 representatives of ministries, SACP, UNICEF and non-governmental organisations from around the country and Sofia participated. They raise various questions and comments.

The early childhood development becomes important for Bulgaria and Europe. It is especially important in the context of the reformation of the educational, health and social systems in Bulgaria and other countries.

Programmes for early childhood development exist for many years in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries, North and Latin America. The Sure Start programme has been developed in the UK at the end of the 90-ties of the last century based on the experience of programmes like the Head Start and the Early Head Start in the US. The results of the programme are evaluated and documented. In 2004 Hungary initiates the introduction of the programme which in stages is introduced in the whole country.

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