Hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities, people with mental health problems, older people or abandoned and vulnerable children live in large segregating residential institutions across the European Union. Such institutions were originally created to provide care, food and shelter, but by now evidence has shown that they cannot ensure person-centred services and appropriate support to bring about full inclusion. The physical separation from communities and families severely limits the capacity and preparedness of those living in or growing up in institutions to participate fully in their community and wider society.
International human rights treaties have long advocated for quality community-based services which respond to the needs of each individual. With a long way to go before Europe reaches this objective, the European Expert Group on the transition from institutional to community-based care (EEG), together with MEPs Ádám Kósa and Helga Stevens put the spotlight on this issue in a high level debate organized at the European Parliament on 10 December.
The debate focused on how the new European Commission and European Parliament could support reforms aimed at the transition from institutional to community-based care in line with the international human rights standards, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Fundamental Rights Charter.
COFACE, as part of the EEG group (*), calls on the European Commission to adopt a Recommendation on the transition from institutional to community-based care that would pave the way for policies truly in line with the EU’s international human rights obligations, respond to the needs of each individual, and meet the highest standards of social care.
The EEG also believes the new European Parliament must stand up for their constituents across the EU who are still victims of segregation and deprivation of their fundamental human rights, by declaring their political support to the efforts made by the European Commission, Member States and civil society.
To read the joint statement, click here
(*) The European Expert Group on the transition from institutional to community-based care consists of the following organisations: COFACE (Confederation of Family Organisations in the EU), EASPD (European Association of Service Providers for People with Disabilities), EDF (European Disability Forum), ENIL/ECCL (European Network on Independent Living/European Coalition for Community Living), ESN (European Social Network), Eurochild, FEANTSA (European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless), Inclusion Europe, Lumos, Mental Health Europe, as well as the United Nations‘ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights - Regional Office for Europe and UNICEF.
The family standpoint on deinstitutionalisation of people with disabilities
COFACE is actively working on this in the Ad Hoc Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care. This group of independent experts was convened by Commissioner Špidla (former European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities) in February 2009 to look at the whole complex of issues around the reform of institutional care – i.e., Deinstitutionalisation (D-I).
The experts based their work on a strong commitment to foundational human rights and social inclusion, and a cross-cutting approach for people of all ages and conditions: elderly people, children, and people with disabilities, including people affected by mental illness.
At present, the group is working on developing common Europe-wide guidelines for the transition from institutional care to community-based care and is continuing to provide realistic advice on how to achieve the de-institutionalisation process (and what not to do) distilled from the experience of those Member States where such reforms have already been implemented.
COFACE’s input has focused chiefly on the recognition of holistic support to families and family carers as key policies for successful and sustainable deinstitutionalization.