The European Semester cycle aims to review performances of Member States each year on both economic and social matters. To guide Members States, the European Commission publishes the Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) in addition to Country Reports (CRs) within the Spring Package of the European Semester mechanism.
The analysis of CRs and CSRs highlighted the need for actions in merit of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the energy crisis, as well as the post-pandemic period. However, in its analysis, the EEG could also identify the presence of specific recommendations in compliance with the transition from institutions to community-based services.
The EEG believes that all people have the right to live outside institutions. Institutions are any residential care where people are forced to live together and/or away from the community, residents do not have decisional power, and/or the organization of the care takes precedence over the residents’ individual needs. The process to end institutional care is defined as deinstitutionalisation.
In these regard, deinstitutionalisation has been mentioned within CRs or CSRs of ten countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain. The CRs and CSRs of five countries (Bulgaria, Portugal, Belgium, Croatia, Italy) mention specific initiatives in the National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs) or other political reforms to support deinstitutionalisation. Other Country Reports reported the urgency to implement further measures and the need to address NRRP funds in the deinstitutionalisation process (Austria, France, Poland, Spain). In the case of Romania, the Country Report highlighted the lack of human resources, administrative capacity and sufficiently integrated services as structural elements preventing deinstitutionalisation.
Community-based services for specific target groups
In addition to specific recommendations regarding the transition from institutional to inclusive support practices, the analysis of the CSRs has also focused on the implementation of community-based services in reference to the EEG target groups.
In particular, concerning children and their families, several of the Country Reports highlighted an increase in the rate of poverty or risk of social exclusion in comparison to data from previous years. While in some cases the allocation of funds to support the inclusion of children in the community has brought to some results (like in Latvia and Ireland), the percentage of children at risk of poverty and social exclusion remains high in most of Member States. The findings highlight an enhanced risk for children in low-income households, children with disabilities, Roma children and children with a migrant background, etc. Concerning these last two groups, it is important to point out the high rate of Roma children that leave education early (Romania and Slovakia) and the fact that children with migrant background are three times more at risk of poverty (Netherlands, Luxembourg). Moreover, the CSRs describe a substantial lack of provision of formal care for children below 3 years old – specifically in some Members States (Czechia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and Romania) – which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Similarly, the analysis of Country Reports has emphasized number of initiatives within NRRPs to promote social inclusion of people with disabilities. Some CRs include measures to boost employability (Belgium, France) as well as the use of ESF+ funds to establish a network of social inclusion services (Cyprus, Italy). However, employment gaps between people with and without disabilities remain a major problem in almost all Member States’ CSRs.
Likewise, people with disabilities have a high rate of risk of poverty and social exclusion throughout all EU countries (EU average was 28.4% in 2021) with even higher rates in several countries (Estonia, Germany, Ireland and Lithuania). In the specific case of Romania, the CSRs highlight deinstitutionalisation of people with disabilities as a substantial step in achieving the 2030 EU headline target on poverty reduction. Furthermore, findings from the EEG’s analysis identify people with disabilities often not finishing school due to inequalities within the educational system (Belgium, Estonia).
Although most CSRs do not include mental health, the promotion of deinstitutionalisation and community services for people with mental health problems is mentioned as a goal for some countries(Portugal and the Netherlands)
Within the CRs, accessible social housing represents another common issue. Shortages and low quality of social housing concerns a number of Member States like Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Luxembourg. In particular, with no national strategy to end homelessness, social housing represents a particular issue for Slovakia. In order to face the lack of social housing, the CSRs call for the adoption of a specific legal framework and the implementation of affordable, social housing facilities. Accessible social housing is also recommended in many CSRs in regard to people fleeing Ukraine and in response to the migration emergency in the EU.
Within its analysis, the EEG could identify general information for target topics such as deinstitutionalisation, community-based services and social housing. Despite the allocation of some funds for community-based services, their accessibility remains difficult in most of EU state members for those people living in poverty and social exclusion. Finally, social housing represents another issue present in several Member States. This problem is enhanced both by the absence of housing strategies as well as by Russia’s invasion of Ukrainian.
 According to research, the Disability Employment Gap is substantial and varies between 10 to 42 percentage points amont EU countries. In the EU as a whole 50,6% of disabled people are employed, compared to 74,8% of people without a disability. For individual disabilities the situation can be worse. Out of 30 million blind and partially sighted persons the unemployment rate is 75%. Among autistic people, only 10% are in employment. According to the ENIL Independent Living Survey from 2020, 96% of respondents found labour market access to be inadequate or requiring improvement.