Disabled French Alone – or Sent to Belgium

Disabled French Alone – or Sent to Belgium

The French government has already been condemned several times for its unwillingness to take care of disabled persons. Each time, the scenario is the same: the judge recognizes the government´s failure and condemns it to pay indemnity plus interests to the families… Here, the story ends. The legal power cannot force the administration to find a solution for taking over the person´s care. The only existing judicial means is the procedure of emergency of the juvenile magistrate in a case of imminent danger. This is what, in autumn 2013, the parents of Amélie Loquet have tried, a severely disabled young woman without any solution for housing and care. This case has, at that time, caused some public rumour and nourished the hopes of other families and forced the French government to react (at least somewhat).


Then, eight cases were presented to the judges. “It is very difficult for the families to find the courage to bring in an action…”, underlines lawyer Sarah Fébrinon-Piguet who has defended their case in front of the administrative court of Paris. At the beginning, she had about 50 cases on her desk, of which she only brought eight before the court.

In seven of the eight cases, the French government has been condemned to pay an indemnification between 13 000 and 70 000 euro, depending on whether it was seen as a case of immaterial damage of a child deprived of its right to attend a school or as a financial damage because one of the parents was obliged to lay down their job, or “the immaterial damage arising from the physical distance” when the only institution which could be proposed was… in Belgium.

For years France been sending disabled citizens to Belgium.This kind of “forced exile”, denounced by the paper Libération, applies especially to adults. Problems are a bit different for children: certain parents are themselves addressing Belgium because it proposes education methods, especially for autistic children, which still do not exist in France. Here, in two of the eight cases, the administrative court has decided that the cause of the problem was not the fact that people were cared for in Belgium but the geographic distance…

Ségolène Neuville, the French secretary of equalization of disabled people, has assured the Libération that the French state would not appeal against the judgement. “France has to confess a historical delay in taking care of autists, so I am not at all astonished by the jury´s decision.” Then she insisted on the “considerable efforts” which had been taken: the third autism plan announces the creation of 3 400 supplementary places for children and adults.
Lawyer Sarah Fébrinon-Piguet admits a certain “bitterness”. “I could congratulate myself on having won these cases but for me, it is rather a failure… These children are still left without any solution, the law suit has been going on for about one year, during which time the situation of the children has not improved.” She is also questioning the amounts allocated by the jury. “The jury estimates the disadvantage of one lost school year at 10 000 euro. I want to reveal it in my next oral pleadings: The risk is that the state just pays indemnity to those who have the courage to fight for their rights, and nothing else will happen.”

In his latest report, the EU Commissioner for Human Rights reproached the French government for depriving an estimated 20 000 disabled children of school education. Enough material for many more potential law suits.


Photo: The French and Belgium national flags

Leave a comment