On 19 December, ENIL’s Policy Officer Ines Bulic took part in a roundtable on deinstitutionalisation in Bratislava, Slovakia. The aim of the roundtable was to discuss strategies on how to accelerate the reforms in the country, which had stalled in the past years. As highlighted in ENIL’s study for the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament, despite significant European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIFs) investment into the process of transition from institutional to community-based care, not one person had left institutional care as a result of this investment.
Slovakia has a large number of people in institutional care – almost 40,000 (out of which around 28,000 are disabled people). For a country of only 5,4 million people, that is a significant number. Although deinstitutionalisation has been the official Government policy since 2011, when the European Commission and the civil society successfully challenged continued ESIFs investments into institutional care, progress has been slow. Now that the new ESIFs programming period is well under way – having started in 2014 – concerns remain about the lack of vision and political will to use these funds to help people leave institutions and start a new life in the community.
The roundtable, co-organised by the SOCIA Foundation and the Platform for Community Living ‘Z Domova Domov’ brought together representatives of the key Ministries, service providers, civil society and a European Commission representative. Participants agreed on some of the following actions, which are necessary to help accelerate the transition to community living in Slovakia:
Focus on human rights – there is a need to acknowledge that there are many problems in the country when it comes to realising Slovakia’s human rights commitments. If there is a genuine will to change this, systemic reforms must be made, with competent individuals in different departments appointed to lead on these reforms.
Active participation of those affected by the process of deinstitutionalisation – processes must be put in place to ensure that people going through the process of change – disabled people, children, older people and others – are able to have a voice in the process. It should not be forgotten that deinstitutionalisation affects not only those currently in institutions, but also those in the community who require support or may require it in the future.
Urgent need to launch the national project funded by the European Social Fund – the project which will help institutions create transformation plans and provide other support to develop community-based alternatives, so that they can qualify for the European Regional Development Fund.
Concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – these must be implemented through the National Strategy to Create Decent Living Conditions for Persons with Disabilities.
Creation of a working group for early intervention at the Ministry of Social Welfare – which must include representatives of parents and service providers.
Legislative changes – there are a number of legislative changes planned by the Ministry of Social Welfare, which must go ahead to support the process of deinstitutionalisation.
New professions – there is an opportunity to create new professions needed for community-based services.
Coordination – there is a need to ensure that the existing coordination mechanisms in the Government are informed about the process of deinstitutionalisation, so that they can support it.
Revision of Operational Programmes – the current capacity of living units is too high; there is an opportunity to revise this, to have a maximum of 6 individuals living together per unit, with a maximum of 2 units next to each other.
European Network on Independent Living – ENIL