Thursday

26th Apr 2018

Focus

Disabled people have a right to live in the community

On Monday (3 December), the international community recognises International Day of Persons with Disabilities. An estimated 1.2 million people with disabilities in Europe continue to languish in long-stay institutions. Institutionalisation is widely recognised as a systematic and egregious violation of human rights.

Today, EU Structural Funds, intended to foster social inclusion and egalitarian regional development, are being spent on exactly the opposite.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • "People in institutions are disempowered, isolated, and denied basic rights" (Photo: lamazone)

Several Central and Eastern European countries like Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia have invested tens of millions of euros in structural funds to build and/or renovate long-stay institutions for people with disabilities instead of supporting community-based alternatives, which safeguard human rights and are more cost-effective.

In Romania, it is estimated that €29 million in Structural Funds allocated for 2007-2013 was spent on expanding or renovating 39 existing institutions. In Slovakia, there is evidence that between 2008 and 2010, more than €185 million in Structural Funds were invested in renovating or constructing 130 institutions, all of which had over 50 residents.

The Bulgarian government decided to invest Structural Funds in the construction of 149 congregate settings for 14 children each. In Hungary, the current call for Structural Funds proposals allows for the option to build institutions for up to 50 people, and there is a chance that such new institutions will be built beginning in 2013.

People in institutions are disempowered, isolated, and denied basic rights like education, employment and the right to live in the community as equal citizens. Lack of heating, malnutrition, inadequate clothing, unhygienic sanitation, abuse and exploitation, and little or no rehabilitative or therapeutic activities are just some of the problems reported in institutions.

The EU must address this unjustifiable misuse of the Structural Funds. It is a breach of EU law and amounts to indirect discrimination. The EU and Member States when implementing EU law (which includes the use of Structural Funds) are under a legal obligation to ensure that standards are met under the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Specifically the EU must safeguard: the right to liberty or freedom from arbitrary detention, the right to freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the right to private and family life; the right to live independently; and the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of disability.

Community living means that people with disabilities can live and participate in the community as equal citizens with equal rights and opportunities, and focuses on individualised care, choice, and access to services.

Vibrant examples of inclusive communities are being developed in several Central and Eastern European countries by organisations that promote supported living and employment, inclusive education, and home-based services. What has been lacking until now is the financial backing to replicate these efforts at the national level.

Unless the EU explicitly demands that recipient countries invest Structural Funds in community-based services for people with disabilities, we will not see the shift to community-based models and appropriate supports and services for people with disabilities.

It is clear that the EU, as the donor of Structural Funds, has a responsibility to ensure that Member State recipients of the funds promote social inclusion.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee recently bestowed the Nobel Peace Prize upon the EU for what it believes is its most significant achievement: “the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights.”

The prize should serve as a reminder to its recipient that it has a responsibility to promote basic rights for all of its citizens. That includes ensuring that its Cohesion Policy for 2014-2020 incorporates rigorous measures to ensure that Structural Funds are invested in promoting the right of people with disabilities to live in the community. They are European citizens, after all.

The writer is director of the Mental Health Initiative, Open Society Foundations

Disability and EU austerity: a Portuguese case study

As executive director of a recuperation centre for disabled people in central Portugal, Cristina Silva has seen first hand how the economic crisis in Portugal is affecting society's most vulnerable.

Interview

Disability in the EU - a 'paradigm shift'

Over recent decades, there has been a "paradigm shift" in the way disability rights are treated in the European Union with policy-makers now focussing on how to make society more inclusive of disabled people.

News in Brief

  1. UN expects over $4bn in pledges for Syria
  2. Commission wants more public data made available for reuse
  3. Study: Brexit will hit all European farmers
  4. European media face rise in 'verbal violence' from politicians
  5. Greenland PM to keep power despite poll slump
  6. Commissioner optimistic on FYROM name solution
  7. Italian court keeps NGO migrant rescue boat docked
  8. German Jews warned not to wear skullcap in public

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  11. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  12. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip

Latest News

  1. Whistleblowers could be enforcers of rule of law in Europe
  2. EU shelves Macron idea for 'European Darpa'
  3. Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs, Italian admiral says
  4. EU had a plan for Jordan - now it's time to make it work
  5. Time for EU to take charge of global health research agenda
  6. EU in race to set global Artificial Intelligence ethics standards
  7. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  8. Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  5. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  8. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  9. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  10. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  11. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  12. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan