In Valencia on December 15, 2015 ENIL with partners hosted a successful event on Personal Assistance as a tool for full participation in society and for leaving institutions behind. Partners for the event were ENIL Spanish allies including: VIVOCAL, FEVI, ¿Cómo quieres vivir? and the Unit for the integration of disabled students at the University of Valencia. Eighty one engaged participants contributed in making this dynamic event.
Many participants were students and teachers on social inclusion coming from the Valencian school for professional training on social inclusion and on support to people for living independently. The event marked a better understanding between interested actors, users and personal assistants on issues at hand.
Antonio Raya from the Department of Equality and inclusive policies, Jamie Bolling ENIL’s executive director and Rosa Conca president of the Association for Independent Living of Valencia (VICOVAL) opened the event. Speakers from various organisations were able to show that money used for PA services allows for full participation with a high quality of life. Juan Benages, president of “¿Como quieres vivir?” through his personal life story showed that through personal assistance not only disabled people, but to their families as well can have a meaningful life.
ENIL presented its research carried out since 2011 on the situation of personal assistance legislation in Europe. This research has been updated in 2015 through the collection of data from 20 European countries. During the conference Dilyana Deneva from ENIL presented highlights on this work. SOLCOM (Association for Community solidarity and social inclusion of people with functional diversity) spoke with a strong voice on the rights of disabled people and the importance of the UN CRPD. Inclusive education was the focus. The participation of the General Director of Functional Diversity of the Department of Equality and inclusive policies from the City of Valencia Antonio Raya gave hope as a civil servant showing an understanding of the UN CRPD and by promising to put all his efforts in the city of Valencia’s implementation of a project on PA services. The department for disabled students from the University of Valencia cooperated in the organization of the conference. Being the sole university department in Spain providing PA during studies, their interest in Independent Living projects is impressively high.
Debates were many, including:
Should students have personal assistance to go to school?
What kind of requirements should there be for the training of personal assistants?
Is it possible to hire an assistant providing good quality work with a minimal salary?
What is a personal assistant – not a babysitter!
There is a need of unifying/equalizing personal assistance legislation in the different areas of a country.
Should there be restrictions in allowing family members to be personal assistants?
It is time to switch from the medical model to the social model to disability!
These are questions ENIL meets in the different countries where different solutions will have been found depending on the culture. ENIL’s view is that students should have personal assistance to go to school as no two students are the same and needs differ. Personal assistants should be trained by the user him/herself as it is the user who is the expert. Personal assistance as a profession needs to rise in status and the level of salaries should be that of an equal job on the labor market. Our assistants are V.I.P. It should not matter in which part of a country one lives – needs should be met on an equal basis. The person using personal assistance is the one who chooses family members or not. And yes – the switch to the social model of disability should have been made, it is now the human rights model that is to be followed!
European Network on Independent Living – ENIL