“Residential institutions can never be the ‘preferred option’ for anyone”
“Residential institutions can never be the ‘preferred option’ for anyone”, Inclusion Europe has stressed in its analysis of the EU Council conclusions on Independent living.
It is the first time that the Council of the European Union, which represents all EU member states, comes to conclusions on the topic of deinstitutionalisation.
The EU Council made a number of statements Inclusion Europe fully agrees with and even wants to strengthen, for example:
- The European Structural Funds are very important for developing community-based support.
- Family carers must be better supported, as they often compensate for a lack of community-based services available for their relatives.
- People with disabilities should be more involved in decision-making when transitioning from institutional to community-based care.
- People need to be able to autonomously decide where to live (this is imperative, not just preferable as suggested in the Council’s conclusions)
- The scale and number of existing residential institutions must be reduced, and affordable and high-quality community-based solutions developed.
But Inclusion Europe also objects to some parts of the conclusions.
For example, the EU Council states that “the remaining residential institutions should support residents’ autonomy […] and cater in particular for the needs of dependent persons for whom community care is not the preferred option. It is essential to ensure safety, dignity and a non-discriminatory environment in all care settings.”
Residential institutions however can never be the “preferred option” for anyone, let alone for people with complex support needs. Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), which the EU has signed, deals with “Living independently and being included in the community”. The General Comment clarifying what the article means stresses that it “extends the right to live independently and be included in the community to all persons with disabilities, regardless of their level of intellectual capacity, self-functioning or support requirements”.
Institutions are not an option
It is moreover not possible to “support residents’ autonomy” in an institutional setting, as institutions take away their residents’ autonomy. Neither is it feasible to “ensure safety, dignity and a non-discriminatory environment” in institutions, given that their residents are much more vulnerable and exposed.
It must also be emphasized that the transition from institutional to community-based services naturally results in the closure of institutions. Unfortunately the EU Council does not address this issue in its conclusions. On the contrary, it states that institutions are a relevant option in the range of services available to people. But the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has made it clear that “deinstitutionalization also requires a systemic transformation, which includes the closure of institutions.” This should be recognized by the EU Council.
Inclusion Europe’s vice-president Senada Halilčević has stayed in institutions for a long time, and her message is clear:
Living in institutions cannot be called living. Living in institutions means separation from other people and humiliation. The thing that made me angry most was that I did not have the freedom to make my decisions and choose my way of living.
She has also pointed out that “an institution is not defined merely by its size. [Deinstitutionalisation is not the] mere relocation of people to apartments, houses or supported housing programs.”
The EU Council should acknowledge this and take institutions off the list of acceptable accommodation options for people with disabilities.
Independent Living was also a topic at the European Day of Persons with Disabilities organised by the European Commission in December 2017.
The European Pillar of Social Rights also stresses the that support in the community is preferential for people with disabilities (and others).
We can add something on the structural funds once we write the article