The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) was made aware of a number of negative developments in Slovenia, which raise questions about the country’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the European Union laws and policies on social inclusion. Our concerns relate to the process of deinstitutionalisation, or more precisely, the continuing investments into long-stay residential institutions for children and disabled people.
In May this year, ENIL’s member organisation in Slovenia – YHD – Association for Theory and Culture of Handicap – uncovered a new institution in Debeli Rtič for 24 adults with disabilities, which received a 3,5 MIL Euro investment by the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (with the land donated by the Red Cross). The ‘excuse’ for this investment was the lack of services for adults with disabilities in this part of the country.
At the same time, the service provider organisation in charge of the new Debeli Rtič institution organised a conference on the transition from institutional to community-based care. The aim of the conference was to learn from the experiences of other European countries and to discuss how to overcome the barriers to the process of deinstitutionalisation in Slovenia, mainly from the perspective of service providers. Questions on how the building of new institutions fits in with this so-called “deinstitutionalisation” agenda were left unanswered.
Another worrying May development was the publication of the Call No 5442-18/2017/13, funded by the European Social Fund (ESF). The Call allows for investment into long-stay residential institutions for children and young people with behavioural problems. The funding is to be allocated for the establishment of ‘centres of expertise’ within a selected number of institutions, without any plans for the closure of these facilities and their replacement with support services in the community. Together with the European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG), ENIL has asked the Ministries of Education and European Cohesion Policy to prevent this from going ahead. We have also alerted the European Commission, as this type of investment fails to comply with the EU Structural Funds (ESIF) Regulations. We are yet to receive a response.
Most recently, ENIL was alerted to the plan to build a new institution for around 80 disabled people in Ponikve, on the grounds of an already existing institution (Call No. 4301-1/2017). In addition to the fact that institutionalisation in itself amounts to a violation of Article 19 CRPD (the right to live independently), this institution is notorious for poor management and the treatment of its residents. Once again, we have prepared a letter for the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, which is funding this redevelopment. The letter will be sent tomorrow, with the additional advocacy and media support by YHD.
In parallel, we are looking into additional concerns as part of the EU Funds for our Rights Campaign, and are meeting with the European Commission officials responsible for Slovenia. More information about this work will be published in our Campaign Briefing, which is due next month.
In February 2018, Slovenia will receive its first set of recommendations from the CRPD Committee, following its initial report on the CRPD implementation. While there are a number of programmatic documents on the transition from institutional care to community living, it is clear that in practice, the current Government favours segregation over independent living. It is a shame, as Slovenia is one of the few European countries with (recent) legislation on Personal Assistance, which coupled with other reforms could help ensure access to independent and community living for children and adults with disabilities. That is – if money stops being poured into new institutions.
YHD – Association for Theory and Culture of Handicap: https://www.yhd-drustvo.si/home.html
Deinstitutionalisation Network – MDI: http://www.za-mdi.si/home-203.html
EU Funds for Our Rights Campaign: https://enil.eu/campaigns/eu-funds-for-our-rights/