On the 9th February 2012 ENIL and the European parliamentary group GUE/NGL (European United Left/Nordic Green Left) held a hearing in the European Parliament. The purpose of this hearing was to show from a number of perspectives how people with disabilities are being negatively affected by the EU current austerity policies. This is the first time that ENIL has held a hearing in the European Parliament. ENIL presented its ‘Proposal for a European Parliament Resolution’ on the effect of the cuts. The hearing was received positively in the European Parliament and three Members of the Parliament participated in the hearing, Kartika Liotard, MEP, Netherlands, Cecilia Wikstrom, MEP, Sweden and Paul Murphy, MEP, Ireland. The hearing was streamed live and there was up to two hundred people watching online throughout the hearing, with approximately eighty people in the Parliament itself.
The hearing began on a optimistic tone with MEP Cecilia Wikstrom’s opening address in which she made it clear that the although the financial climate is affecting every faction of society that hope is necessary at this time.
Panel 1: Understanding the impact of austerity measures on persons with disabilities
The hearing was in two parts with two different panels. Understanding the impact of the austerity measures on persons with disabilities was the focus of the first panel. Throughout this first panel, four themes emerged; (a) disability and policy, (b) de-institutionalisation, (c) disability and the media and (d) individual accounts that were shared.
(a) Disability and Policy: Since the financial crisis there has been an impact on the way in which policy has been implemented, interpreted and devised. One of the most important issues raised by Prof. Alan Roulstone (Expert on global and European disability policy) was that short term cuts often ignore the long term benefits. These policy decisions do not just have economical effect, but social and political effects. John Evans OBE ( Advisory Board member of ENIL) noted that throughout this financial crisis, it is the welfare systems that have been hit hardest and further reductions would increase poverty. He pointed out that many of these cuts have been made without any dialogue between governments and those whose benefits they are cutting. John Evans further argued, Independent Living has positively changed people’s lives, however some people are now struggling to survive. (more…)