If children with intellectual disabilities are denied an education, society misses out

BRUSSELS – 24 March 2015

When it comes to education, policies and practices in most European countries are becoming increasingly divergent. In fact, while many states are developing policies formally geared towards inclusive education, the segregation of students with disabilities has been constantly growing since 2008.

Research conducted by Inclusion Europe members has found this negative trend to be the result non-comprehensive strategies, which lack both careful planning and the necessary reallocation of resources, are not always aimed at systemic changes and do not envision special monitoring mechanisms. This causes students with more severe intellectual disabilities or complex needs to be regarded as too expensive to be educated in mainstream environments. However, the lack of reasonable accommodation and de facto exclusion of children with intellectual disabilities and complex needs is contrary to the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), to which the European Union (EU) is a signatory.

Therefore, Inclusion Europe has made a submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities detailing key issues that should be included in a General Comment on Article 24 of the Convention. Inclusion Europe pointed out, among others, that the concept of “reasonable adjustments” is effectively used as a rejection tool by many schools. As securing a place in an inclusive setting turns into a long and exhausting struggle for families, these often feel obliged to accept referrals to segregated schools, because they are convinced that sufficient support can only be obtained in these segregated settings. Moreover, in many countries children with severe intellectual disabilities or complex needs do not have access to any schooling at all, as they get placed in day care centers or residential institutions that provide no education. This happens in countries such as France, where 6000 to 20,000 children are excluded from school, the Netherlands, where around 4000 children are being denied an education, and Bulgaria, where the figure reaches 3000.

Children and young people with intellectual disabilities need to be supported in going to school together with their siblings and peers without disabilities, to be able to become contributing members of their communities, find employment and gain independence. Families whose children with disabilities are not supported in receiving an education suffer as they are faced with higher costs and with a feeling of isolation and deprivation. Furthermore, they are at risk of falling into poverty, as parents are often forced to quit their jobs in order to take care of their children with disabilities.

When members of a community are prevented from leaning and contributing together, society misses out. Exclusion from schooling not only endangers people with intellectual disabilities and their families, but fuels a vicious circle of dependency and isolation, with an untold impact on whole communities.

For more information, please contact Silvana Enculescu, Inclusion Europe Communications Manager, at s.enculescu@inclusion-europe.org