Cuts to Independent Living services across Europe, slow progress towards de-institutionalisation, abuse of disabled people in institutional care, and some advancement in the right to Personal Assistance. This is a summary of 2011 by the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) on the occasion of 3 December, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
A joint report by the Health Service and Local Government Ombudsman, published last month in the UK, condemned the treatment of David Parsons, a man with Down’s Syndrome who died after being locked away in a one-bedroom flat for 10 months. The 53-year old, who was virtually imprisoned in an elderly home and denied contact with his family, endured an 18-month-long ordeal by the local council and health authorities.
Disabled people’s organisations and allies Europe-wide have used much of the year to protest against cuts to support services for people with disabilities, which could result in thousands of people being locked into their homes or placed into institutional care. Already among the poorest and most excluded from employment and education, disabled people are among the hardest hit by the ongoing financial crisis inEurope.
‘Action must be taken now if we do not want to go back to where we were 30 years ago’, said Jamie Bolling, ENIL Executive Director, herself a user of Personal Assistance. Ms. Bolling’s countrySweden, one ofEurope’s leaders in Independent Living legislation and policy, has been drastically cutting supports available to disabled people this year.
On the other hand, countries such asSerbiahave enshrined the right to Personal Assistance in their social welfare law earlier in the year. While ENIL welcomes this development, implementation will only be possible if there is funding for this and other Independent Living services to be put in place.
This September, ENIL launched a Proposal for a European Parliament Resolution on the Effect of Cuts on Community-based Services for People with Disabilities in the EU. The Resolution, already supported by the European disability and anti-poverty movement, asks the Member States to respect their obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. If adopted, it would send a clear message that human rights must not be compromised by the need to make savings.
Reflecting on 2011, Ms. Bolling added: ‘We must work even harder to ensure we do not lose the rights we fought for so hard. At the same time, this is an opportunity for disabled people and other groups facing poverty and social exclusion to work together and stand up to our Governments.’ Building on successes of this year and continuing to promote the right to live independently in the community for all persons with disabilities is what ENIL will be focusing on in 2012.
 See: http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/improving-public-service/reports-and-consultations/reports/health/a-report-by-the-health-service-ombudsman-and-the-local-government-ombudsman-about-the-care-and-support-provided-to-a-person-with-downs-syndrome/1