EEG position on the Social Pillar and European Semester

The European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG) has prepared its recommendations to the implementation of the European Semester and the integration of the European Pillar of Social Rights (Social Pillar) in the European Semester.
The Social Pillar is a European Commission initiative which is intended to act as driver for social change in Europe and serve as a guide towards efficient employment and social outcomes when responding to current and future challenges.
Over one million adults and children, including adults and children with disabilities, are still living in long-stay residential institutions across Europe. A horizontal and efficient implementation of the Social Pillar’s principles, especially those on disability, childcare, long-term care, healthcare and housing, would give the opportunity to effectively protect social rights, improve the quality of lives and promote the right to family and independent living.
The adequate implementation of the Social Pillar would also be in line and provide a tool for the enforcement on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) which has been ratified by the European Union (EU) and, to date, 27 Member States.
For these reasons, the EEG recommends the EU to:
  • Define a clear implementation plan for each principle of the Social Pillar;
  • Reform the European Semester process to rigorously apply the Social Scoreboard;
  • Put in place a rigorous and transparent monitoring system;
  • Meaningfully involve civil society organisations;
  • Create as many synergies as possible among policies and funding;
  • Propose packages with legislative and non-legislative initiatives;
  • Further invest in the Social Pillar when designing the post-2020 EU budget and Cohesion Policy.
More information can be found in the EEG paper on the European Pillar of Social Rights and its potential to build an inclusive Europe for all.
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EEG response to the reflection paper on the future of EU finances

The European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG) has prepared a response to the reflection paper on the future of the finances of the European Union (EU) to ensure that the Post-2020 EU Budget continues to provide opportunities to improve the lives of over one million adults and children still living in long-stay residential institutions across Europe.
In the last Multi-annual Financial Framework, the EU prioritised deinstitutionalisation through a Cohesion Policy which aims, among other things, to lift people out of poverty and social exclusion, and through the introduction of the ex-ante conditionalities, which help ensuring that EU funds support the transition from institutional to community-based services.
These are good examples of how the EU can make a real difference in the lives of people who are among the most socially excluded, however there is still a strong need for investment in the deinstitutionalisation process and for the transformation towards innovative, person-centred family- and community-based support, health and housing services.
Considering the great potential that Cohesion Policy has in changing lives and supporting deinstitutionalisation, the EEG strongly encourages the EU to assume a leading role in social issues by renewing and increasing the Cohesion Policy budget in the next Multi-annual Financial Framework and invest in the transition from institutions to high-quality community-based services that promote social inclusion in all EU Member States.
The EEG believes the EU can do even more to support and calls for:
  • Further investment into Cohesion Policy in the next Multi-annual Financial Framework;
  • Strengthening, extending, and ensuring the efficient monitoring of the ex-ante conditionalities on the transition from institutions to community based care and services;
  • Reform and simplification of the funding processes.
More information can be found on the EEG response to the reflection paper on the future of EU finances.

 

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EEG raises concerns on the use of EU funding in the context of migration

In the past months, the EEG has seen a worrying trend in the way that the European Union (EU) and Member States have responded to the needs of groups of people in vulnerable situations in the context of migration.
In particular, the group is concerned by the findings of reports highlighting that the needs of people in vulnerable situations, including children, homeless people, persons with disabilities and people experiencing mental health problems, are not being met in a manner that is consistent with human rights.
Concerned by the exclusion of groups of people in vulnerable situations in the context of migration and drawing from the expertise of its members, the EEG sent a letter to various EU Commissioners and EU Agencies Directors with a series of recommendations to be applied to groups of people in vulnerable situations. In conjunction with these recommendations, the EEG has also prepared a background document with more information on the legal framework and situation of specific groups.
EEG letter on the exclusion of groups of people in vulnerable situations in the context of migration and the use of EU funding.
Annex to the letter on the exclusion of groups of people in vulnerable situations in the context of migration and the use of EU funding.
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EEG Press Release: EU Semester

EC must safeguard adequate investment in community-based services in Country Specific Recommendations

The European Commission (EC) recently published its 2016 country-specific recommendations (CSRs) to Member States. Following positive statements on the way social care and support should be provided in the last few years by the European Commission, the European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-Based Care (EEG) welcomes several recommendations promoting quality care and support and access to employment and inclusive education for disadvantaged groups. Nonetheless, the overall focus on austerity will be detrimental to the transition to community-based services in Europe, if no safeguards are made available for public investment in this area.
In Europe, millions of children, persons with disabilities, older persons, homeless people and those from other disadvantaged groups live in segregated institutional settings, excluded from mainstream society. Without adequate, person-centered support in the community, that is accessible for all persons and their families, institutionalisation will sadly continue. This violates their right to live independently or to be raised by their family and to have choices and control over their life, just like other people. Since people in segregated institutional settings are usually unable to take part in mainstream education or the open labour market, the economic and societal impact of their exclusion is very high.
The EC’s Annual Growth Survey 2016 fully supported this argument and urged “social infrastructure (to) be provided in a more flexible way, personalized and better integrated to promote the active inclusion of people …” Its analysis of poverty and social exclusion also argued that “access to high quality healthcare from an early age is indispensable for people to grow and live healthily and contribute to society”.
The EEG is pleased that several CSRs back the European Commission’s commitment to the transition from institutional to community-based care. The CSR recommendation to Estonia to “ensure the provision and accessibility of high quality public services, especially social services, at local level, inter alia by adopting and implementing the proposed local government reform” is a particularly positive step. The same can be said about the CSR calling on Romania to “improve access to integrated public services”.
The EEG, however, remains concerned that these positive social recommendations may not be sufficiently protected and strengthened ahead of recommendations in the area of fiscal consolidation, included in most CSRs. For instance, whilst Spain receives positive CSRs related to a better coordination of regional employment services with social services or to improve family support schemes, including access to quality child-care and long-term care, it also receives a recommendation to “ensure a durable correction of the excessive deficit by 2017, reducing the general government deficit to 3.7% of GDP in 2016 and to 2.5% of GDP in 2017”. It is indispensable to ensure that the fiscal recommendations do not undermine the implementation of the social ones.
Luk Zelderloo, co-chair of the EEG and secretary-general of the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities, argues that “the European Commission must include safeguards for public investment in the area of quality social infrastructure in recommendations related to fiscal consolidation. This would ensure that the European Commission positively contributes to the transition to community-based care, whilst also staying within the remit of their fiscal agreements.”
The EEG calls on the European Union to continue the fight against segregating institutions and for creating inclusive communities in all its policies and activities, even beyond the use of European Structural and Investment Funds.
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Roundtable on the Transition from Institutional to Family and Community-based Care in Greece

On 18th May, the Greek Ministry of  Health and Ministry of Social Security and Social Solidarity held in cooperation with the European Commission and the EEG a roundtable in Athens focusing on the transition to community based care in Greece. Many stakeholders participated to the discussions and the main focus were policies, care for persons with disabilities and care and protection of children.

13221220_10209387433912157_3227065215718716_oThe ministries are committed and have the political will to ensure priority to the social welfare sector and to adopt a common vision for the transition. Great synergies between the ministries and consultations with civil societies have been established. The European Commission welcomed their commitments and supported the proposition to adopt a national plan. The EEG also emphasised the need for answering urgent matters that require short term actions. Investments must be made in people and services and not in infrastructures.

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Seminar on Community-based Support in Poland

Warsaw, 14-15 March 2016

The EEG and the European Commission were invited in Poland by the Ministry of Economic Development in order to support a two-day seminar focused on the transition to Community-based care. The event led to pragmatic discussions with national and regional level authorities and the drafting of selection criteria for the ESF.

Group Picture.jpg

The EEG welcomes the drafts of selection criteria based on a community-based support approach, which were developed by the regional authorities of Poland in the following areas: care services & personal assistant, housing services, elderly services and family & foster care. The presence of external expertise by the EEG was welcomed as it helped to change the mind-sets.

We concluded by reminding that it is not about building, it is about the people and the society we want to live in. We welcome the proposal to draft a EU library of selection criteria that could serve as basis for all Member States authorities.

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Award: Zero Project Innovative Policy & Innovative Practice 2015

In 2015, the Zero Project selected 39 Innovative Practices that positively impact the rights of persons with disabilities to live independently and/or support their political rights.

ZeroProject

The European Expert Group was nominated as one of these innovative practices for Diverting EU funds towards community-based care.

Here is the video of the co-chairs.

It reminds the impact the EEG has had since its constitution in 2012. “The EEG was established to support the EU in promoting care reform across Europe. It provides guidance and tools, raising awareness and lobbying for the regulation of the EU’s €367 million structural and investment funds in order to divert them away from institutions and towards family-based care. The Expert Group consists of organizations representing children, families, persons with disabilities, persons with mental health problems, public and non-profit service providers, public authorities, and international non-governmental organizations. EEG activities have resulted in more people with disabilities accessing basic and universal services in their own communities, and in EU officials and governments of EU members being more aware of the vulnerabilities of people with disabilities.”

It further underlines that “the success achieved in the EU has initiated a process of review by the United States, World Bank, and other international donors to explore how they can ensure that their own funds are used appropriately with regard to institutionalisation. The EEG guidelines and toolkit provide a model for other types of donors related to the eradication of institutional care. Currently, the EEG is exploring with the European Foundation Centre and others if revised versions tailored to private trusts and other grant-giving bodies would be useful.”

“The EEG’s unique collaborative approach was instrumental in convincing the EU to put a stop to its funds being used on harmful institutions.” —Georgette MULHEIR, Chief Executive, Lumos Foundation

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Training of European Commission Officials

The EEG organised two trainings on the development of quality family-based and community-based support as alternatives to institutional care for desk officers of the European Commission in October.

“Everything you always wanted to know about Deinstitutionalisation (but were too afraid to ask)”

DSC_0063.JPGThe objectives of the trainings were to provide information on the tools and mechanisms that can be used to promote deinstitutionalisation and the development of community-based care in the daily work of the Commission staff.A broad range of officers from DG Regio, DG Empl, and DG justice as well as various desk officers from many countries participated in the trainings.

The self-advocates’ contributions were greatly appreciated as it provided concrete examples of DI. It brought a human and personal insight to the problematic of institutionalisation. We warmly thank Ms. Wendelien De Baere and Senada Halilcevic for their enthusiasm to share their personal stories and their active participation in the events.

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The EEG underlines the importance of these trainings and their positive impact on the continuous development of community-based care. The group will further its work this year with the organisation of national seminars in seven countries.

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The use of the European Semester for the transition to community-based care

In 2015, the EEG issued a press release and sent a letter to President Juncker in order to demonstrate the importance of promoting the transition to community-based care by streamlining de-institutionalisation (DI) in the European Semester process.

The EEG underlined that the failure to strongly include DI in most of the 2015 country reports and country specific recommendations is a missed opportunity for the European Commission to use the European Semester to promote such a process.

P029701001502-468010Most country reports and CSRs failed to emphasize the role of public, private and not-for-profit social services, especially at the local level, in addressing social challenges and providing community-based care. It is important to ensure all EU policies and financial instruments make a real contribution to the enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities, elderly, children, persons with mental health issues and homeless, who have a right to live independently and be included in society, and to have the same choice as any other person. The economic and social considerations must be considered jointly in order to ensure a European Union worthy of a Triple A social rating.

In its letter to President Juncker, the EEG called on the use of the Annual Growth Survey to identify the transition to community-based care as a key priority for Europe. The AGS should lead to a plan on how to include social impact assessment in the process of developing CSR in order to tackle poverty and social exclusion and help convince Members States to implement the recommendations.

It is important to provide those currently segregated in institutions, with an equal chance to gain access to family environment, inclusive education, the labour market and community living in order to create sustainable and inclusive societies.

The European Commission should ensure that the European Semester actively contributes to ending the harmful practice of people living in segregating settings in Europe.

You can read our Press Release on the CSRs here.
You can read our Letter to Mr Juncker on the AGS 2016 here.

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Seminars organised by the EEG

The EEG has since 2013 organised seminars on the use of EU Structural Funds for the transition from institutional to community-based care in the following countries:

– Riga, Latvia on the 28 June 2013
– Tallinn, Estonia on the 19 September 2013
– Bucharest, Romania 2 of October 2013
– Budapest, Hungary 17 of October 2013
– Zagreb, Croatia 24 of October 2013
– Sofia, Bulgaria 27-28 of January 2014
– Warsaw, Poland 17 of February 2014

The events were all hosted by national governments, with the exception of Poland (where the Ombudsman’s Office hosted). The EEG still intends to organise similar events in 7 countries this coming year: Austria, France, Belgium, Poland, Portugal, Greece and Denmark.

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