On the 8th July, the European Disability Forum hosted the Webinar “COVID 19 Recovery and the EU Budget: Influencing the process” where Elizabeth Gosme, President of COFACE Families Europe, attended as speaker on behalf of the European Expert Group on the transition from institutional to community-based care (EEG).
The objectives of the Webinar were the following ones:
- To understand more clearly what the recent amendments to the proposal for the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework mean for investing in the social inclusion of persons with disabilities, as well as to understand what role the extra funding from Next Generation and REACT EU can play in the recovery of persons with disabilities from the COVID-19 crisis;
- To understand more clearly why EU funding is so important for fostering inclusion among persons with disabilities, and what kind of actions we can foresee through the use of funds (with examples of investment in community-based services, and employment)
- To present tips guidance to national and local Organisations of Persons with Disabilities on how they can influence how money is allocated in the Operational Programmes, using the specific examples of Greece and Spain.
The speakers included Ioannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum, Maria Tussy-Flores from ONCE Foundation Spain, MEP Katrin Langensiepen Member of the European Parliament and Chair of the Disability Intergroup, and Stefan Tromel from the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The EEG presentation is available here and opens with reference to the statement issued by the EEG on 24th April about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons living in institutions. After that, the presentations looks into the 2021-2027 EU Multiannual Financial Framework, currently under trilogue negotiations between the European Commission, Parliament and Council. Elizabeth Gosme mentioned more specifically the horizontal and thematic enabling conditions of the Common Provisions Regulation (CPR), which impose conditionalities on the use of EU funds. These include explicit references to the use of the funds in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) through the Horizontal enabling conditions, and to the transition from institutional to community-based care, through thematic enabling conditions. Another strong reference to deinstitutionalisation (DI) is part of Article 6 of the ESF+ regulations, and of the target groups of the Annexes to the ESF+ regulation. She referred to the role of civil society in the EU funds, with the explicit reference in CPR Article 6 to the need to involve civil society and organisations representing persons with disabilities. Finally, she invited civil society organisations and public authorities to use the EU funds checklist developed by the EEG and Hope and Homes for Children, to assess if the policy objectives of the Partnership Agreements are directed at independent living, to assess the target groups covered, to ensure funding of range of services in the community, and, finally, to identify unwelcome measures.
Other speakers mentioned two positive examples from Greece and Spain on the structured dialogue and involvement of civil society organisations in the monitoring committees for the funds, which can serve as inspiration for many countries. MEP Langensiepen provided some insight into the work of the European Parliament on the new REACT EU fund addressing the impact of COVID-19, and how it could serve to support the rights of persons with disabilities. Stefan Tromel mentioned the work of the ILO to ensure that persons with disabilities are included in employment-related initiatives, training, and the need for complementarity between UN and EU initiatives in relating to the employment of persons with disabilities, particular in view of the economic impact of COVID-19.
The meeting closed with a Q&A session with participants, including one question on the extent of progress of DI in Europe and on the barriers that still remain. Elizabeth Gosme referred to the recently published a Report taking stock of the the DI transition in EU27 in the past ten years, indicating the picture was a mix of both positive and negative trends. While there has been progress in some countries, there have been setbacks in others. But the general transition is underway and also thanks to the role played by the EU. We must keep our eyes on the objective, which is the respect of the human rights of children and adults with support needs, as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Right of the Child and of the UNCRPD. As for barriers, they can be overcome through DI strategies, which are still lacking in many EU countries. Another barrier is represented by a persisting institutional culture, which EU and its Member State can contrast by continuing impulsing a general cultural and societal shift towards person-centred and individualised support for all. Here you can more about this in the EEG Joint Statement presenting the Report.