Disability Watchdog: Estonia’s Care Villages

Disability Watchdog: Estonia’s Care Villages

On 12 – 13 October, the Estonian Presidency of the EU Council is organising a conference “Dignity + Independent Living = DI”, which will be followed by the Council Conclusions on deinstitutionalisation. On this occasion, the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) has chosen to look at Estonian’s own experience of developing community-based alternatives to institutional care, and the extent to which they facilitate disabled people’s right to independent living.

This most recent article in our Disability Watchdog series focuses on the Estonian care villages. A part of Estonia’s deinstitutionalisation reforms, the care villages were created to accommodate people with intellectual disabilities and mental health conditions. A total of 550 new places have been created so far, with another 1,400 places planned for the future. They are supported by investments from the European Structural and Investment Funds, more specifically the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund.

For a number of years, ENIL has expressed concerns about services created under the guise of ‘community living’, but which continue to exclude disabled people from society. The article entitled ‘So Close, Yet So Far’, written by Mari Siilsalu and Jamie Bolling, looks at the defining characteristics of care villages. Using the definition of an institution from the Common European Guidelines on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care, it goes on to explain why they continue to perpetuate institutional care, rather than eliminate it.

The article ends with a number of recommendations to the Estonian Presidency. One of these is to stop placing disabled people into care villages and, instead, provide them with genuine community-based services, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Given its stated commitment to deinstitutionalisation, the Estonian Presidency should lead by example and help end the segregation of disabled people in the European Union once and for all.

To read the article in full, please click here.

Real progress on Independent Living in Serbia

Real progress on Independent Living in Serbia
  1. Three CIL members (from Sombor, Smederevo and Leskovac) are on different lists for local parliament elections in May 2012

The impact of having Gordana Rajkov as the first disabled MP has led more disabled people to become involved with politics, initially at a local level. Rajkov has influenced the disability movement and policy development at both national and level level, promoting the idea that  “disability could be the investment – not a burden”.

CIL members – Julijana Catalinac from Sombor, Dusko Savic from Smederevo and Svetislav Marjanovic from Leskovac are on the lists of three political parties and have very good chances to become members of local city councils. There are four other DPOs in other Serbian cities who have become politically active for the next elections in May 2012. (more…)

Presentation of the book on The family dimension of the UN Convention

Presentation of the book on The family dimension of the UN Convention

On the occasion of the International Day of Families COFACE will present together with Ádám Kósa (MEP, Chair of the Disability Intergroup) the new COFACE publication, The family dimension of the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities at the European Parliament in Brussels on 15 May 2012, from 16:00 to 17:30.

Source: http://www.coface-eu.org/en/Publications/The-Family-Dimension-of-the-UNCRPD/

Background information

With this publication, COFACE aims to highlight the family dimension of the Convention, contribute to its dissemination, support the implementation of the European Commission’s European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 as well as the European Parliament’s report on mobility and inclusion of people with disabilities drafted by Ádám KÓSA MEP. It also aims at empowering European citizens living with disabilities and their families.

May 15, the International Day of Families is devoted to mark the relevance that the international community places on family issues as a fundamental unit of our society, as well as to highlight concerns about their situation in many parts of the world.

This day provides also an opportunity to reflect on the work started in 1994 and to celebrate the importance of families, people and societies around the world.

COFACE is delighted to invite you to attend this conference which builds on the experience of COFACE’s Disability Working Group as well as the European Parliament Disability Intergroup, discussing and debating the UN CRPD and its family dimension.

Please feel free to disseminate this information within your membership and contact details!

Registration is free and will be open until 7th of May. To obtain more information and register for this event, please visit:


For further inquiry, please contact: secretariat@coface-eu.org

We look forward welcoming you in Brussels for a fruitful debate!


The annual meeting of Fundamental Rights Platform

The Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP) of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) had its two day annual meeting in Vienna. The annual meeting brings together members of the Agency’s network to work in partnership on fundamental rights. This 5th FRP meeting aimed to:

  • encourage a European debate on fundamental rights among different civil society organisations;
  • facilitate knowledge exchange and the sharing of of promising practices among Fundamental Rights Platform participants;
  • inform the work of the FRA about challenges and promising initiatives on the ground;
  • create opportunities for networking and further cooperation between civil society, the FRA and other actors.


Elected members to the Advisory Panel 2012-2013

One of the main events of this year’s meeting was the election to the new Advisory Panel. The Advisory Panel supports the work of the Director of the FRA in organising and coordinating the Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP) and inputs into the preparation of relevant meetings and events.

The Panel is also a tool for ensuring the  good running of the Platform, suggesting, where necessary, adjustments and improvements to processes and procedures, and thus facilitating a vibrant dialogue between the Platform and the Director of the Agency. There were 24 candidates of which Jamie Bolling, the executive director of ENIL – the European Network on Independent Living was one. Jamie was supported by ENIL and EDF and was happy to be re-elected to the panel along with: Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska – Helsinki Foundation on Human Rights, Roger Kiska – Alliance Defense Fund, Allan Leas – European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), Catherine Lynch – Irish Network Against Racism, Evelyne Paradis – International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Intersex Association – European Region (ILGA-Europe).

UK is Breaching Human Rights of Disabled, UN told

Source: Stephen Naysmith – Herald Scotland

A SCOTTISH campaigner will this morning (2nd April 2012) tell the Human Rights Council of the UN that the UK Government is in breach of its human rights obligations to disabled people.

In Geneva today, Dr Pauline Nolan, Policy Officer for Inclusion Scotland, will submit evidence to a preliminary hearing ahead of a planned review of the human rights record of 14 states, including the UK.

On behalf of the Campaign for A Fair Society – a coalition of more than 70 Scottish charities – Dr Nolan will warn the cumulative impact of welfare reform and cuts to benefits affecting disabled people will mean their ability to live a full life is impaired. In particular, she will argue that welfare changes undermine their right to be included in the community.


ENIL’s visit to Belarus: “What is IL and why is it needed?”

Independence Square from the Minsk Hotel

The Office for the Rights of Persons with a Disability (ORPD) in Minsk invited ENIL’s executive director Jamie Bolling to Belarus. The visit took place between 25th and 29th February 2012. The theme for the visit was “What is Independent Living and why is it needed?” The message was communicated through several gatherings bringing together disability organisations and other stakeholders.

On Sunday 26th of February 2012, a round table discussion took place on Enabling Independent Living through Accessibility in Belarus. About 20 people attended from six different organisations. The meeting was an opportunity to share experiences about what is happening in Belarus as well as in other European countries. A number of parent organisations were presented with questions about personal assistance as well as collective living. Before the round table Bolling met with the leaders from the Office for the Rights of Persons with a Disability to explore opportunities for future collaboration between the two organisations. (more…)

AER Committee two meeting – March 2012 in Joensuu, Finland

The spring meeting of the AER Social Policy and Public Health Committee took place in Joensuu, Finland on 19-21 March 2012.  The meeting was an invitation of the region of North Karelia. AER members joined the Conference on perspectives on ageing that was organized in the framework of the European Year 2012 and focused on health and long term care with workshops on equal access to quality care, multi-sector cooperation and empowerment of the users in the development of products and services. This conference was held on March 20th and launched AER’s work on Active and Healthy Ageing, a key political priority for the Committee in 2012 and part of AER’s commitments towards the European Year 2012.

Spring in Joensuu

The Committee’s spring plenary meeting took place on March 19th, 2012 and was an occasion to update members on the latest developments in health and social policy in Europe and in the regions. The new AER Secretary General, Mr. Pascal Goergen, presented his ideas for change that are to be put forward for approval at the General Assembly to take place on March 26th. The post of interim Committee President was filled through the election of Mr. Karsten Uno Petersen from the region of Southern Denmark. The 21st of March was dedicated to study visits in relation to the conference topic.

Mr. Pascal Goergen


Struggle for personal assistance in Finland

Finland has a plan to close down all institutions for people with intellectual disabilities by 2020 and that by 2016 no more than 500 persons will be living in institutions.  The close-down of these institutions is a necessity for Finland to be able to ratify the UN convention of the rights of persons with disabilities.

The Social Ministry is currently working on a plan for the transition from institutions to individual housing, with other services, for persons with intellectual disabilities. The JAG Association in Finland has attended a hearing to discuss the draft plan and has also commented in writing on the plan and on the system for personal assistance in Finland.

The JAG Association has in its response to the Social Ministry underlined the importance of that the municipalities, who are responsible for arranging services for persons with disabilities, have enough resources to make sure everyone who is moving out of an institution gets appropriate service and support in their own home. JAG has also argued that personal assistance is often the most suitable service in order for disabled persons to be able to live an independent life, on the same terms as everyone else and that it is extremely important that persons with intellectual disabilities are not excluded from the right to personal assistance.


From institution to independent living

National plan for development of social services that can replace institutional care

Social ministry 8/2 2012

ISBN 978-952-00-3208-1


Mind Change Conference

The first European Mind Change Conference will take place in Villach, Austria from the 2nd – 4th May 2012.

Mind Change is an NGO that promotes the social inclusion of disabled people. They believe that in order “to achieve a liveable, fearless and equal society for all people including people with disabilities, a public Mind Change is required”.

There will be a broad spectrum of European participants attending the conference including scientists, practitioners, self-advocates, social service representatives and public and political decision-makers. More than fifty academic papers from eleven European countries will be presented. The conference will cover such topics as legal rights and standards, inclusive science and technology and an accessible environment. The conference will also cover areas ranging from inclusive education and employment, to quality of life, health promotion and inclusive communication. (more…)

After-birth abortion or the danger of thought experiments

“Parents should have the right to kill their newborn baby.” So say two academics in an article in the renowned ‘Journal of Medical Ethics’. Their controversial statement provoked a global wave of horror and even death threats.
Alberto Giubilini, Professor at the University of Milan, and Francesca Minerva, from the Centre For Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Melbourne University, wrote a provocative essay in which they state that it is morally justifiable for parents to kill their newborn child. The academics argue that “postnatal abortion” should be permissible not only on medical grounds, but also because of social or financial reasons. Even if the parents just did not want their child, it should be possible to let it die, so say Giubilini and Minerva.

In the article, the two also speak about postnatal abortion of children who became ill after the birth. “Some diseases are difficult to detect before birth, or develop only later. Many parents would have chosen abortion if they had known earlier that their child was ill.”

“One example is Down’s Syndrome. Approximately 36% of the parents only know after birth that their child has the syndrome. But meanwhile, not only the parents but also the State has to carry the burden of care. The public interest – that of the parents and society – has priority over that of the child”, said Giubilini and Minerva.

The authors defend that statement by saying that newborn babies, like embryos, have no personality and therefore no sense of their own. Therefore death causes them no moral damage.

The article caused a storm of protest almost immediately and led to the authors receiving death threats. The editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics defended the authors by arguing that they had written down “a thought experiment” and do not necessarily agree with their own reasoning.



Protest in Germany

Every year around the 5th May, the European day of protest for equal rights for people with disabilities, there are many actions and initiatives of disability organizations in many parts of Germany.

On 10 May 2011 more than 1,000 people with and without disabilities met for a demonstration with the motto “bailout/parachutes for all!” going from the Brandenburg Gate to the Federal Chancellery. Many disability organizations supported the action.

The bailout has grown significantly since then. Nevertheless, it is not available for people with disabilities – in Germany and other European states. On the contrary. Instead of a prompt and full implementation of the UN Convention, the needs of people with disabilities are increasingly being cut due to “austerity measures”.

Therefore, disability organizations call for a the next European protest in 2012, again with the motto “Parachutes/bailouts for all!” on 27 April 2012 from the Federal Chancellery to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.



Irish MEP’s Discuss European Union Austerity Measures

On the 9th February 2012 ENIL and the parliamentary group GUE/NGL held a hearing in the European Parliament entitled ‘Defend the right of Independent Living – How the EU’s austerity policy is undermining the lives of people with disabilities’.

Before the hearing I met up with two Irish Members of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness and Paul Murphy. We discussed the impact of the austerity measures on the lives people with disabilities and the future implications of these measures.

Paul Murphy, MEP was moderator of the second panel which focused on ‘The threat of cuts to the rights of persons with disabilities at the European Level’. Paul Murphy is a member of the Socialist Party in Ireland and is part of the GUE/NGL parliamentary group. This hearing was his first introduction into the area of disability. Paul Murphy said that for him “this is the start of the process of becoming more active in the whole area of disability”.  Mairead McGuinness, MEP is a member of the political party Fine Gael in Ireland and is part of the European Peoples Party (EPP) parliamentary group. She has a long standing interest in disability issues. She supports agencies that work on the ground in EU countries to achieve deinstitutionalisation by raising the issue in the European Parliament.

Peter Lambreghts, ENIL and Onafhankelijk Leven and Paul Murphy,MEP

One of the first issues that I discussed with Paul Murphy was how Europe’s austerity measures could impact on one of the main objectives of the Disability Action Plan (DAP), which is to ‘make equal opportunities for disabled people a reality’. Paul Murphy described how the gap between people’s aspirations and reality is growing as a result of the current financial crisis.  “Unfortunately, the impact of the actions of the Commission and the local government is quite vast and with the crisis the gap has grown even bigger.” He described the situation in Ireland and how those that are most affected by the crisis are moving further away from their hopes.


The right of people with disabilities to live independently and be included in the community

“ The right of people with disabilities to live independently and be included in the community”

Issue Paper commissioned and published by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe.

Download it here in PDF Format

ENIL on the Joint Committee on Human Rights Report on Independent Living and UNCRDP

Rights of disabled people may be at risk, says Human Rights Committee 

The disability movement/Independent Living movement of the UK is very pleased about the outcome of this report. It was exactly what we needed after almost two years of challenging the government on how the cuts and austerity measures were affecting disabled people’s ability to live independently.

The report is highly critical of the government’s measures in cutting back services, and the ILF (Independent Living Fund) which is putting disabled people at severe risk for the future.

This is by far the most comprehensive critique of an EU Member State policies which are affecting disabled people severely. No other governmental level report has come out in Europe highlighting the impact the austerity measures are having on Independent Living. This report can be very useful for the Independent Living movement throughout Europe in challenging their current austerity policies.

The question is whether the UK government will take this seriously or just ignore it. (more…)

Reprint: Disabled people have come so far – don’t undo all the progress

The UK is at risk of breaching international obligations to disabled people, so I’m proud to help safeguard independence

The joint select committee on human rights reports today on its 12-month inquiry into disabled people’s right to independent living. Photograph: Janine Wiedel Photolibrary/Alamy

As a severely disabled person, I am reminded every day of the tremendous progress made over the past 30 years in the UK to enable disabled people to become active citizens. Autonomy and freedom would not have been part of my vocabulary half a century ago. I might have been reliant upon my family for support, with the prospect of being put into an institution when they could no longer cope.

Instead, at 52, I am an independent crossbench peer and member of the joint committee on human rights (JCHR), which reports this week on its 12-month inquiry into disabled people’s right to independent living.

Since leaving university I have had the privilege of being involved in helping develop the complex weave of legislation and public policy necessary for disabled people to live in, and be part of, their community.

Keeping millions of disabled people inactive and dependent is costly, from a financial and moral point of view. I have witnessed disabled people raise families, work or simply be more cost-effective by keeping healthy and taking greater control over their personal care. It’s not been perfect. But by many standards, we were ahead of the game compared with much of Europe.

And now decades of positive progress are at risk of being reversed as economic austerity is used as justification for denying independence.

That is why I am so pleased to be part of the strong and unambiguous stand taken by the JCHR in publishing its report. We listened to a whole range of expert witnesses and took into account extensive research and consultation, looked at the context of the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (UNCRPD), which was ratified by the UK in 2009.

Although I feel I have the right to independent living, the legislative and policy framework simply isn’t in place to make it a right; and what there is, is in danger of disappearing fast.

If my local authority cuts my care package or demands I transfer to NHS care (because they regard using a ventilator as the trigger for health services), I lose control of my life. I might have to leave parliament, or give up work altogether (because I need social care direct payments to do everything, from eating a sandwich to delivering a speech). I am only a few bureaucratic decisions away from returning to the inequality I endured at 18. It wouldn’t take long to transform all my relationships with my colleagues, partner, family, friends into one which gives little or nothing to anyone. Everyone loses.

The fact that all this could happen without my consent hangs over me and thousands of others. That is why I am so glad the JCHR report recognises and recommends the need for freestanding legislation to protect the right to independent living in UK law.

The report addresses recent government and local authority measures and austerity reforms that impact upon independent living for disabled people; such as reforms to disability living allowance and housing benefit, closure of the Independent Living Fund and restricting eligibility for social care to “critical or substantial” needs only.

The JCHR found no tangible evidence of the government giving due consideration to the UK’s obligations under the UNCRPD during this critical reforming time.

This lack of regard to the convention, coupled with the potentially retrogressive impact of these reforms, risks placing the UK in breach of its international obligations. This report is so timely. It sets out the risks to progress on independent living and makes sensible, achievable recommendations.

The UK’s international reputation in public policy and legislation which places more power in the hands of disabled people to assume control over their own lives, and to be included in all areas of life, is clearly in jeopardy.

Independent living has never made more sense. The government must heed the JCHR report and act fast. Otherwise history will repeat itself – the next generation of disabled people should not have fewer rights than I’ve had.

U.K.: Rights of disabled people may be at risk, says Human Rights Committee



No 87, Session 2010-12, 27 February 2012 


The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) today publishes its Report on the implementation of the right of disabled people to independent living in the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which was ratified by the UK in 2009. The Report draws attention to a number of significant human rights issues, including:


·         the need for freestanding legislation to protect the right to independent living in UK law,

·         the effect of current reforms to benefits and services on the ability of disabled people to enjoy independent living,

·         the role played by the UNCRPD in policy development and decision making at all levels of government,

·         the use of equality impact assessments,

·         the effects of devolution on implementation of the UNCRPD, and

·         hate crime


The right to independent living does not exist as a freestanding right in UK law. Although it is protected and promoted to some extent by a matrix of rights, the Committee believes that this is not enough. It argues that the Government and other interested parties should immediately assess the need for, and feasibility of, legislation to establish independent living as a freestanding right. In addition, the Committee concludes that the UNCRPD is hard law, not soft law, and that the Government should fulfil their obligations under the Convention on that basis, and counter any public perception that it is soft law.


The Committee finds that:


·         reforms to benefits and services risk leaving disabled people without the support they need to live independently;

·         restrictions in local authority eligibility criteria for social care support, the replacement of the Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payment, the closure of the Independent Living Fund and changes to housing benefit risk interacting in a particularly harmful way for disabled people;

·         some people fear that the cumulative impact of these changes will force them out of their homes and local communities and into residential care.


It also finds that:


·         the Government had not conducted an assessment of the cumulative impact of current reforms on disabled people. The Report urges them do so, and to report on the extent to which these reforms are enabling them and local authorities to comply with their obligations under the UNCRPD.


·         the UNCRPD did not appear to have played a significant role in the development of policy and legislation, as is required by the Convention. The Committee therefore argues that the Government should make a commitment to Parliament that they will give due consideration to the articles of the Convention when making legislation.


Further, the Committee deprecates changes to the duties of public authorities in England under the Equality Act 2010, which no longer require the production of equality impact assessments of changes in policy, nor the involvement of disabled people in developing policies which will affect them.


The Committee finds variations in the manner in which the devolved administrations have implemented the Convention, and uncertainty as to the role the UK Government should play in ensuring implementation. The Report notes with disappointment the lack of a strategy in Northern Ireland to promote independent living and reminds the UK Government to acknowledge their responsibility to ensure implementation.


The Committee also considers a range of other issues relating to independent living. It recommends that the Government should take further action to ensure that assessments for care needs are portable across the country in order to ensure disabled people’s right to choose their place of residence. It also expresses concern over a growing incidence of hate crime against disabled people and urges the Government take action to foster respect for the rights and dignity of disabled people.



Dr Hywel Francis MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “We are concerned to learn that the right of disabled people to independent living may be at risk through the cumulative impact of current reforms. Even though the UK ratified the UNCPRD in 2009 with cross-party support, the Government is unable to demonstrate that sufficient regard has been paid to the Convention in the development of policy with direct relevance to the lives of disabled people. The right to independent living in UK law may need to be strengthened further, and we call on the Government and other interested organisations to consider the need for a freestanding right to independent living in UK law.”



The members of the Committee Are:

Rehman Chishti MP (Conservative Gillingham and Rainham)
Baroness Berridge (Conservative)
Mike Crockart MP (Liberal Democrat Edinburgh West)
Lord Bowness (Conservative)
Dr Hywel Francis MP (Labour Aberavon) (Chair)
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton (Cross-Bencher)
Mr Dominic Raab MP (Conservative Esher and Walton)
Lord Dubs (Labour)
Mr Virendra Sharma MP (Labour Ealing Southall)
Lord Lester of Herne Hill (Liberal Democrat)
Mr Richard Shepherd MP (Conservative Aldridge-Brownhills)
Lord Morris of Handsworth (Labour)


Clerks to the Committee:

Mike Hennessy (House of Commons) 020 7219 2797 John Turner (House of Lords) 020 7219 6772

Enquiries: 020 7219 2467        Fax: 020 7219 8393        E-mail: jchr@parliament.uk

Homepage: http://www.parliament.uk/jchr
Media Inquiries:  Liz Parratt: 07917 488978.

DPAC: Letter warns Government that Scrapping ILF would ‘wreck lives’

DPAC: Letter warns Government that Scrapping ILF would ‘wreck lives’

All photos © 2012 Pete Riches

Campaigners have handed the government a letter signed by hundreds of user-led organisations and disabled activists, in an effort to save the Independent Living Fund (ILF).

The letter, written by the campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), warns that scrapping ILF would “wreck disabled people’s lives” and push them into residential institutions rather than allowing them to live independently in the community. (more…)

Reminder: Free online seminars on UNCRPD

The Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) are hosting a series of four free online seminars. The aim of these seminars is to relate the Disability Convention to what people with disabilities in Scotland have said are the key issues that they face. To date three seminars have taken place; “Rights in a Recession”, “Getting Justice” and the third one on “ Independent Living”.

The third one on ‘Independent Living’ was presented by Independent Living Scotland and the SHRC. This seminar focussed on what the Convention says about Independent Living. It then moved on to give an overview of Independent Living Scotland and it’s history. Finally, it looked at Independent Living and human rights and how to make these rights a reality.

Recording of the seminar of 13th February 2012 about Independent Living, with Pam Duncan from the Independent Living in Scotland Project

The last seminar in the series is on the 12th March 2012, focusing ‘Children and Young people’ and will be streamed live between 12-1.00pm GMT. lt will also be available online after the seminar finishes.

All these seminars are still available online for free along with the presentation slides used in the seminars.




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Spotlight: Hearing in the European Parliament: “Defend the Right of Independent Living – How the EU’s austerity policy is undermining the lives of people with disabilities.”

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…)

Good news! Bulgaria ratified the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Bulgaria has finally ratified the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. After a long and hard battle for the human rights of many disabled people in Bulgaria, Parliament has taken this serious step and ratified the Convention. This historical moment for persons with disabilities in Bulgaria is the first step in finally recognising the rights of disabled people. NGO’s in Bulgaria are now facing the long path ahead of enforcing the articles of the Convention as a real instrument for Independent Living and human rights. The problem is that Parliament has excluded the Optional Protocol from the ratification process. Unfortunately this puts persons with disabilities in Bulgaria in the disadvantaged situation in which they can’t address the UN Committee that’s working on the correct implementation of the Convention. Bulgarian NGO’s will now fight for the inclusion of the Protocol and will pursue the Bulgarian State to take this reasonable step forward. We are just at the start of the path but at least we now see it in front of us.