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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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)”
The 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.
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.
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.
Most 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.
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.