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.

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