Three years after its Wasted Time, Wasted Money Wasted Lives – A Wasted Opportunity? report, the European Coalition for Community Living at the European Network on Independent Living (‘ENIL-ECCL’) announces the publication of a new briefing on the use of Structural Funds for disabled people. The briefing, entitled Achieving the Transition to Community Living, highlights the fact that at least €150 million were invested into institutions for disabled people in six EU Member States (Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and the Slovak Republic) during 2007 – 2013. It warns that, without a more meaningful involvement of NGOs in the ongoing programming of Structural Funds use in 2014 – 2020, the EU may once more miss an opportunity to support the development of quality alternatives to institutional care for disabled people.
The briefing, based on the information provided by partner organisations in the six countries, highlights four factors that have led to investments into institutions in the current programming period. These are: lack of governments’ vision for the transition to community living; focus on poor physical conditions, resulting in the renovation of institutions; lack of co-ordination of different EU funds; and other systemic barriers to community living. As a result, millions from the EU funds have gone into the building of new institutions, into extensions and upgrades, and into alternatives still institutional in character. In addition, Structural Funds have not been adequately used to support access of disabled people to mainstream services and family support to prevent institutionalisation.
ENIL-ECCL have welcomed the new regulations on the use of Structural Funds, adopted by the European Parliament on 20 November 2013. With an explicit reference to supporting the “transition from institutional to community-based care” and the introduction of the ex ante conditionalities, there are safeguards in place to prevent future investments into large long-stay institutions. On the contrary, Structural Funds should be used in line with the EU legislation and policy on social inclusion, and to support the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (‘CRPD’).
As the briefing highlights, for this to happen, it is crucial for governments to have a clear vision about how to include disabled people in society and an unwavering commitment to change. There should be a more comprehensive needs assessment and a correct understanding of what is ‘independent living’ or ‘community-based services’. Co-ordination of Operational Programmes – on human resources, infrastructure, but also energy – and a meaningful involvement of NGOs are also key to ensuring that the new programming period results in a more efficient and CRPD compliant use of EU funds.
The publication of the briefing was supported by a grant from the Open Society Foundations. To download the briefing, please click here.