The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) represents a milestone for the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities and their families. Besides 27 of its Member States, the EU itself ratified the Convention in 2010, therefore this international Treaty is part of EU primary law and shall be implemented across EU laws and policies. The CRPD presents a paradigm shift from the ‘medical to the ‘social model’ of disability, by highlighting that disability is a social construction, instead of a medical issue and the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in society is possible if we remove all currently standing legal, social and environmental barriers.

The CRPD explicitly acknowledges the important role played by families for the promotion of human rights and the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society (See Preamble, Article 23). Furthermore, the Convention covers a broad range of areas, including education, independent living, accessibility of goods and services, equality before the law, access to justice, freedom of movement, health, and others, where persons with disabilities and their families face complex, socially constructed barriers. Children, women and persons with complex, or multiple disabilities are in a particularly vulnerable situation in Europe, especially when it comes to parental, or reproductive rights.

COFACE Families Europe takes a life course approach towards disability and calls for the development of high-quality community-based support services for those needing care, or support. Persons with disabilities should have the opportunity to choose the form of care, or support they want. We also want family carers, who give their time and help free of charge, to be recognised through a certain number of rights, social and other benefits. These rights should also enable them to make an informed choice on caring arrangements, in agreement with their relative who has care needs and still preserve the quality of family life. The enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities is interdependent with the quality of life of their family members, and can be very much influenced by the circumstances affecting parents, partners, children and siblings living with them. Inadequate social protection floor, the lack of access of persons with disabilities to the mainstream school system, open labour market, support services, or health system leaves a lot of families at risk of poverty and may lead to human rights violations and institutionalisation of persons with disabilities – a practice that COFACE is figting against at European level.

The EU had its first review in front of the UN CRPD Committee in 2015 and COFACE Disability took active part in drafting an Alternative report to the Committee and followed closely the review process. This work was coordinated by the European Disability Forum, an independent NGO that represents the interests of 80 million people with disabilities in Europe and COFACE is one of their European members.

Read more about the most important implications of the UN CRPD to persons with disabilities and their families in COFACE Disability’s publication, ‘The Family Dimension of the UNCRPD’. This document intends to raise awareness on the scope and relevance of the Convention among family organisations, policy makers and other representatives of civil society, in order to promote advocacy activities and facilitate the dissemination of the UN CRPD at national and European levels.


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