On 14 September, the ENIL Task Force on Independent Living convened for meeting no 3. We had the great pleasure to listen to a captivating presentation by Antonia Trikalioti from Independent Living Greece and an instructive explanation of EU activities in the area of disability rights by Imaculada Placencia-Porrero, senior expert on disability at the European Commission.
Antonia gave a presentation about the new Personal Assistance scheme in Greece. At the moment, there is not publicly funded Personal Assistance scheme in Greece as Antonia explained. This has severe implications for disabled people with support needs, who as a result, have to rely on family members or have no choice but to live in institutions. In 2019 the Greek government started to work on plans to introduce PA for the first time. In 2020 a working group installed by the ministry of social affairs commenced drafting a law on the right to Personal Assistance. I Living Greek was part of this working group. The law was completed in October 2021 and is based on the results of the working group entirely. The law on PA was thus co-authored by I Living Greece.
According to Antonia, the new law on the right to PA fully respects the UNCRPD, grants PA according to the choices of the user and is available for every type of impairment. Implementation of the national law on PA will only start in 2024 unfortunately. In 2022 a pilot project based on a joint ministerial decision will commence. The pilot project will introduce PA in a limited number of regions only, discriminates between impairments and was drafted without the involvement of disabled people´s organisations (DPOs).
Ms Plancencia-Porrero thanked Antonia for the presentation of the new PA-scheme in Greece and praised the information as very helpful. The disability-expert explained that the European Commission had noted with great concern the situation of disabled people in institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the increased likelihood to become a victim of violence when living in an institution. The European Strategy on the Rights of Persons with Disability (ESRPD) acknowledged that 3 million people were living in institutions across Europe and supported the right to independent living. The ESRPD highlighted the need for better support services, social housing and Personal Assistance. Work force shortages were complicating efforts to make improvements in this area. The European Commission was encouraging member states to work on this and has asked the European Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) to conduct research on the topic of violence against disabled people. Next year new member state guidance on Independent Living was to be published. When drafting this guidance the Commission was trying to identify EU added value and seeking the input of NGOs.
Task Force participants emphasized the wish that the EU should stop spending on the maintenance of institutions and support the expansion of Personal Assistance. The creation of group homes and the reliance on home care services were no way to go forward.