On the 18th November 2014, ENIL held a Roundtable on the issue of portability of, and access to personal assistance within the European Union in the European Parliament. ENIL has been contacted by or made aware of, a number of personal assistance users from the European Union unable to take a university or work place in another Member State because of restrictions in accessing support services or not being able to take their support package with them. We also know of cases when the EU funded projects were not able to accommodate personal assistance users because of the cost involved.
The main aim of the event was to highlight the barriers that disabled personal assistance users face as a result of being denied support in other EU Member States or not being able to export the services they are entitled to when they move. The Roundtable also aimed to highlight the barriers personal assistance users in the EU face when taking part in European Union funded projects or programmes and also sought to identify actions that the new European Parliament and Commission, as well as the Member States should take to address the barriers to intra-EU mobility.
Ms. Marian Harkin, MEP opened the Roundtable by highlighting the importance of raising the issue of portability of personal assistance in the European Parliament. The Executive Director of ENIL, Jamie Bolling welcomed everyone to the Parliament in Brussels and outlined the role of ENIL in advocating for changes in policy at a European Level that would improve the quality of life disabled people in Europe and ensure their rights as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of disabled people are upheld.
Gary Lee, Lawyer and Chief Executive of CIL Carmichael House, Ireland, focussed on one of the most important pillars that the European Union is founded upon – the free movement of workers within the European Union. Workers with disabilities should also be entitled to this right with the support they require. At present, exportability of the services that enable disabled people to work, for example social security benefit (cash) is exportable but social assistance benefit such as personal assistance is not exportable. Mr. Lee outlined the EU directives, treaties and case law that dealt with this issue paying particular attention to Article 114 of the Lisbon Treaty which outlines harmonizing measures to regulate the internal market, a concept that includes the free movement of persons. He also explained the importance of the UN CRPD in particular Articles 5,9,19, 20 and 27 which the European Union has signed and this development should have a very real impact on European Legislation and policies in relation to the movement of workers with disabilities in the future.
Agnes Fazekas, Social Policy Ph.D Fellow, Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest focused her presentation on the ‘Challenges of transportability of support services for students with disability under the Erasmus + Mobility in higher education. She had number of key recommendations to improve this programme for students with disabilities including:
- Creating a European wide database terminology ‘student with disability’ in tertiary education.
- Cost analysis of support services in order to better allocate the supplementary grant
- Create a monitoring mechanism about the fulfilment of responsibilities of the home/host
Alba Gonzalez, gave her own personal account of moving from Spain to Belgium and how she manages to lives an Independent life with the support of personal assistance. She also outlined the struggle she faces in securing enough hours of personal assistance and of the many barriers she faces to ensure that she has a good quality of life. Miro Griffins, ENIL Board Member presented the results of the ENIL Personal Assistance survey which looked at the legislation and provision of personal assistance in 22 European Countries. The results of this survey outline the differences in personal assistance legislation in each country and in the vast differences in the number of hours of personal assistance that people receive. It also includes a number of recommendations to be implemented at both national and European Level.
The Roundtable was closed by MEP Helga Stevens and Richard Howitt, both of whom again expressed the importance of discussing this issue in the European Parliament and of the intricate nature of the issue of the portability of personal assistance in Europe. This issue requires the attention of all European Institutions most especially the European Parliament and the European Commission.
If you would like to read the report of the Survey on Personal Assistance, please click here.