On 14 January, ENIL, together with the European Disability Forum (EDF), Disability Rights International (DRI) and the Validity Foundation sent a joint letter to Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen. In the letter, we have asked Commissioner Thyssen to maintain the wording in Article 6(2) (Equality between men and women and equal opportunities, and non-discrimination) of the European Commission’s proposal for the European Social Fund Plus Regulation (ESF+).

The draft ESF+ Regulation is being negotiated by the Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council, and will set out the rules for the use of ESF for the period 2021 – 2027.

The European Commission’s proposal on ESF+ has recognised in Article 6(2) the importance of using these funds to move away from both “residential care” and “institutional care” to family and community-based care. Unfortunately, the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs has proposed an amendment on this article, suggesting that “residential care” should be removed from Article 6, thus allowing the Member States to invest in residential care facilities, rather than being encouraged to move towards family support and community living.

In the letter to the Commissioner, the four organisations have explained the reasons why investments should be directed towards alternatives to residential, and institutional care:

1.Legal basis: The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) establishes the right to live independently in the community for all persons with disabilities (Article 19) and the right to live in a family for all children (Article 23(5). Further guidance has been provided in the General Comment No. 5, which makes it clear that independent living is not possible within residential institutions.

2.Lessons learnt: Overinvestment of ESI Funds into institutional and residential care facilities during the current and the previous funding period has resulted in the continued segregation and exclusion of children and adults with disabilities.

3.The need to invest into community-based alternatives: Rather than investing in residential care, Member States should use ESI Funds to support genuine alternatives to institutional care, which facilitate the right to live independently in the community.

To read the letter in full, please click here.