Brussels, 3 December – To mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the European Network on Independent Living – ENIL calls on Governments to stop delaying deinstitutionalisation reforms and start providing opportunities for independent living and being included in the community for all disabled people, as a matter of priority. Public funds, especially those coming from the European Union, must be used to support personal assistance, accessible housing, family support and mainstream services for all – not for the continued segregation of disabled Europeans.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given us another proof why institutions of all names and sizes are not suitable for people to inhabit. A total of 83% of those who responded to the COVID-19 Disability Rights Monitor survey stated that Governments have taken no or limited measures during the pandemic to protect the lives, health and safety of disabled people living in institutions. Almost 70% of people reported they have been isolated in institutions, banned from leaving, and up to 84% have not been able to receive any visitors for months. Death rates in institutions have ranged from 19 to 72 percent of the overall COVID fatalities.
ENIL’s first Independent Living Survey has shown that, whereas 17 (out of 42) European countries have deinstitutionalisation strategies, 8 are considered by disabled people as inadequate and 6 as requiring improvement. In 22 (out of 42) countries, disabled people are aware of EU Funds being used to renovate or build new institutions or segregated services.
While we are being told that change takes time – for many disabled people, the situation has been changing for the worse.
This is why ENIL has teamed up with Portuguese Members of the European Parliament, Marisa Matias and José Gusmão (GUE/NGL), to encourage the European Commission to start fulfilling its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), to prohibit and sanction investments in segregated settings. The animated video, produced in English and Portuguese, explains in plain language that using EU funds to put disabled people into any form of institution – be it large or small – is a violation of human rights. Our aim is to encourage more monitoring and oversight over EU funded projects – by disabled people’s organisations, NGOs, but also the general public.
Let us celebrate this International Day by taking action and telling Governments: Time’s Up! The impact of the pandemic on disabled people, the recently established CRPD Committee working group on deinstitutionalisation, and the renewed focus on institutions as death traps, provide a unique opportunity for a global push for independent living for all. Let us work together and use it.