EEG response to the Council Conclusions on “Enhancing Community-Based Support and Care for Independent Living”

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:


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EEG position paper on the funding of the European Union (EU) post-2020

In light of the discussions on the post-2020 Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF), the European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG)  has prepared a position paper with specific recommendations to contribute to the current debate on the MFF.
With more than 1 million children, persons with disabilities, people with mental health problems, homeless and older people living in long stay residential institutions and segregated from society in Europe, more has to be done collectively for poverty reduction and social inclusion in the future MFF of the European Union (EU).
The EEG acknowledges the pivotal role that the EU has had in promoting deinstitutionalisation in some Member States and strongly encourages the EU to continue championing deinstitutionalisation in its internal funding policy as well as extending this leadership to its external policy and funding (i.e. EU external aid).
Continuing the promotion and the further investment in the deinstitutionalisation process is in line with political and human rights commitments taken by the EU and its Member States, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC). The shift towards family and community-based services will also contribute to the delivery of the principles and rights under the European Pillar of Social Rights (Social Pillar) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
More robust investment in deinstitutionalisation can make a real difference in the lives of the most socially excluded in Europe, their families and society as a whole, as well as ensure that EU citizens and individuals are able to fully enjoy their human rights. Investment on accessible social services infrustructures, including affordable and accessible housing, are essential parts of a meaniful and succesful deinstitutionalisation process.
With the intent of continuing its fruitful collaboration with the European Commission and drawing on the expertise of a diverse membership, the EEG would like to propose specific recommendations which could contribute to the debate on the post-2020 MFF and increase and extend the added value of EU funds in this area.
For more information and to download the paper, please click here.


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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.


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.


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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