Recognizing and investing in the care economy
Loreta’s story: How the Care Economy Program Enabled me to Become a Certified Caregiver for Persons with Disabilities in Veles
March 4, 2023
After long years of formal unemployment and unpaid work, now Loreta Roguzarova is finally employed as a caregiver for persons with disabilities. She says that end beneficiaries and their families give her their unreserved support and are very satisfied with the services she delivers for those who need them most.
Loreta Roguzarova, a 48-year old women from Veles, was a long time unemployed with no formal previous professional experience. Only guided only by her desire and need to help, she signed up for the training for caregivers of persons with disabilities within the newly introduced Care Economy programme in 2021. She decided to give it a try, pass the training, acquire additional skills, and obtain a caregiver certificate. Being at home and taking care of the son with cerebral palsy, she had gained some practical knowledge and experience.
“When you are a parent of a child with disability, you are faced with enormous challenges. There is a whole mountain of questions, needs and problems in front of you. Will you ever and how will you find a job, are you going to find a good job to make a living… but on the other hand, will not jeopardize the care and time spent with your child who needs care and attention throughout the day,” Loreta begins her story with a pensive look.
“Before entering the Care Economy Programme, I worked in an olive factory for six years. I worked only part time, so I could come home more quickly and devote myself to my son. It was hard… money was much needed but always not enough. My son was my priority…” she continues.
After the family tragedy and losing her son, Loreta decides that she wants and must continue working. She finds out about the opportunity through the non-governmental organization “Association of Persons with Cerebral Palsy and Other Disabilities – Veles”, registers for the caregiver training, receives the certificate and finally starts working and earning her independent income for the first time ever.
She is currently fully employed and takes care of five people in Veles, all of whom have serious diagnoses and need a helping hand more than ever. One of them is Stojanče, who suffers from cerebral palsy.
They meet in the morning, when Stojanče wakes up. She helps him complete his morning activities, mandatory physical exercises, and then they drink coffee together and agree on the activities for the day.
– We often go out for a walk together. Loreta helps me get ready, get dressed and we go out for a walk around Veles, with the obligatory coffee in one of my favorite cafes. She is always there when I need her. Without her help, it would be really difficult for me...”, he says.
This woman fighter’s joy of finally doing professionally what she knows best is huge. For the first time in her life, Loreta is getting paid for what was previously unpaid and unrecognized labor. She says that the members of the families she visits give her their unreserved support and are very satisfied with her services. Their daily responsibilities do not allow them to be with their loved ones all the time and help them in the home, but with Loreta’s involvement, i.e. with the opportunity to get a professional caregiver, their everyday life is significantly facilitated.
As a result of the social sphere reforms at the local level, social economy is recognized as an open opportunity for people with disabilities and people in need of palliative care, that is, people who are not able to take care of themselves, to receive help from trained and certified caregivers – informs Daliborka Zlateva, president of the Association of Persons with Cerebral Palsy and Other Disabilities-Veles. In fact, Zlateva says, three mothers of children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities, who had already gained experience caring for their loved ones, signed up for caregiver training in order to become certified caregivers. Precisely for the specificity of their responsibilities at home, so far they have been prevented from finding a job. Once the training opportunity came up, they took the courage to enter the educational process and acquired the relevant certificates. Of these, two decided to continue as professional caregivers for help and care in the home. What they had been doing daily with their children virtually helped them to enter the educational segment of the training more easily and to quickly improve and acquire the knowledge and skills required. It was also Loreta who with her 24 years of experience, easily fitted into the training, and then professionally continued to take care of people with disabilities.
Mothers of children with disabilities already have the knowledge and experience to react quickly in specific everyday situations. It is precisely those parents who have the knowledge and possibility to take the courage and start working as caregivers, not only to their children, but also to other people in need of help. Sometimes, the training of two or three months is not enough for anyone who wishes to enter the program and acquire the knowledge and skills like the parents of children with various disabilities do – says Zlateva.
– I think that parents who have gone through life with children with disabilities know how to be trained best as caregivers. Those of us who have had children with disabilities remain to do what we know best and continue on that path, because we know best and fully understand the challenges parents face on a daily basis – Zlateva believes.
Loretta's life path is similar to an additional 117 unemployed persons who have succussed to enter the formal labor market through the Programme for the first time. Women are the dominant workforce in the Program, with 90 % share of the total number of employed persons. They are now the critical mass of the new skilled labor driving a new economic sector that can significantly change the course of any national economy.
The Care Economy Program, firstly initiated in 2022, is implemented by UNDP, in partnership with the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy and the Employment Service Agency. So far, 318 unemployed persons have been included in the certified caregiver training process, of whom 168 have already obtained certificates, while the others are in the process of completing their training. 117 have been formally employed as caregivers in 13 non-governmental organizations expected to deliver social services to around 470 end beneficiaries. The Programme aims to enable the hard-to-employ groups of citizens to more easily activate in the labor market, while filling the skilled labor gap, particularly in the area of social protection and care.