On 7 December 2017, the Council of the European Union (EU) adopted Conclusions on “Enhancing Community-Based Support and Care for Independent Living.” The European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG) welcomes this significant development and political commitment to continue investing in community-based services for independent living for all people with support needs.
With these Council Conclusions, the EU and its Member States have made a clear commitment to end the segregation of people in vulnerable situations and with support needs. This is also a concrete step forward towards the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), ratified by the EU and 27 of its Member States, the European Pillar for Social Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Conclusions invite the European Commission to facilitate the practical implementation of the EEG’s Common European Guidelines on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care and of the Toolkit on the Use of the European Union Funds. We are glad to see that our publications have been mentioned as the gold standard guiding the deinstitutionalisation process throughout Europe. We are emboldened to not only continue but strengthen our fruitful collaboration with the European Commission and work towards greater prioritisation of deinstitutionalisation through the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework. We also positively welcome and support the recommendations to commit to a greater dialogue at EU level on the transition from institutional care to community-based services.
With this in mind, the EEG would like to draw the attention of the Council to the recently adopted General Comment on Article 19 by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a document aiming at assisting States Parties in their implementation of Article 19 and fulfilling their obligations under the UN CRPD. The General Comment clarifies that Article 19 of the UN CRPD recognises the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community regardless of age, origin, race and ethnicity, religion or political opinion, gender identity and sexual orientation, family or carer situation etc. (for a full list see the General Comment). It highlights the need to phase out institutions and to prohibit the use of public or private funds on maintaining, renovating or establishing any form of institutional care.
With respect to the specific situation of children, the UN Guidelines on Alternative Care for Children also provide essential guidance for EU Member States. It embeds the principles of necessity and suitability, i.e. that no child should be separated from their family until all other support measures have been exhausted, and that decisions regarding a child’s care must reflect their best interests and take account of the individual child’s experience, characteristics and opinion. Going forward, we encourage the Council to uphold Article 19 of the UN CRPD and other human rights standards in their entirety, for all individuals with support needs, when applying the Council Conclusions.
The EEG also would like to acknowledge the leadership of the Estonian Presidency in championing the commitment to community-based support and care for independent living. From the hosting of a high-level conference on “Dignity + Independent living = DI” to the drafting of the Council Conclusions, the Presidency put investing in the transition to community-based care and services high on the EU agenda. The EEG would like to commend these efforts and express our appreciation for the Estonian Presidency’s openness to dialogue and consultation with EEG members throughout its six-month mandate. We would like to encourage the upcoming Presidencies to continue and translate into concrete measures the commenced efforts of the Estonian Presidency to make social inclusion and community living a reality for millions of Europeans. The EEG is more than pleased to continue supporting such actions in line with human rights standards at European and national level.
For more information on the Council Conclusions, see EEG members’ reactions:
COFACE Families Europe:
Eurochild through the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children Campaign
European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD)
European Network on Independent Living (ENIL)
Mental Health Europe (MHE)