Jamie Bolling in Romania for a Conference on Deinstitutionalization

Jamie Bolling in Romania for a Conference on Deinstitutionalization

Judith Klein from the Open Society Foundation called it a new day! The Romanian Minister Plumb has committed to the transition from institutional to community-based care for disabled people in Romania with the closure of institutions by 2020.

On June 4, 2015 Rovana Plumb from the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Protection and Elderly Persons opened the International Conference „A Future Together, a Future for All” in the Romanian Parliament Palace. Commitments and priorities for the transition from institutional to community based care for disabled people in Romania were discussed.

Here is part of the minister’s speech: „I commit today to start the DI process to a modern community based care. Highlighting the ability of people with disabilities and their needs at the community level. We want to start the process by using EU funding more efficiently and to access at county level how the deinstitutionalisatino process can be done.” We do need coherent policy at the community level. So far we have had different policy with a focus on institutions. Now we need new concepts. We will start with pilot projects at the level of one or two counties. The projects will be assessed to follow the priorities. We will identify the NGOs which can provide services. This process will not only be the pilot projects at country level, but also through the training of the the personel within the area of work. This will allow the DI process to be completed by 2020. Besides, the action plan that matters is that the government can support the persons with disabilities. We know what is needed and with your help we can create the solutions. Your help will be important in order to identify the priorities. Institutions are to be closed by 2020. A process with a new vision is to start. This DI process is only a component of a larger process in the social process of Romania.

This conference was organised by the Open Society Foundations in cooperation with the Ministry of Labor, Family, Social Protection and Elderly Persons and the Institute for Public Policy (IPP) in order to put the DI process in focus and to have a commitment from the government.

Judith Klein is the Director of the Open Society Foundations, Mental Health Initiative. She spoke on how she has done work with OSI on DI since 1996 with a start in Romania. OSI has focused on early intervention, services for children and inclusive educaiton. She stated that Romania has come a long way with alternatives, such as supported housing, and the DI exists in Romania on a small scale. Judith was pleased that Minister Plumb said that the process would be speeded up as the UN CRPD mandates the right to live in the community. She also said that it was the first time ever for a Minister in Romania to be committed to DI and that – this is a new day!

Daciana Sârbu, a Romanian Member of the European Parliament, said that she had been looking forward to the event. She had embraced the idea since Judith Klein came to the EU parliament to discuss the situation of disabled in Romania. She also said that there was a need to talk about a national strategy as in Romania group homes and institutions deteriorate people’s lives. She feels that Romania needs a practical solution for the DI process and not only talk in theory and on paper. People need answers to a warm and friendly environment. She gave her word to be engaged in the process and to call on other Romanian MEPs to join in the call for action.

Pernilla Baralt, a Deputy Minister from the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs in Sweden, called DI a crucial issue for inclusion and participation of disabled people. She stated that if we have set goals in Europe, we would all need to reach these goals and welcome the steps that Romania is taking; she offered Swedish assistance in the process. She spoke on her right to be engaged to participate in issues on her own life and that everyone is to have this right. She hoped to strengthen the relationship between Romania and Sweden and welcomed new policy. She informed the audience that Sweden decided on an individualized-based system, considering individual needs as a human right. She also mentioned the importance disabled persons to be involved in the decision-making process.

Aurelio Cecilio, the Head of the Unit Romania, Bulgaria, Malta, DG Employment in the European Commission, spoke about citizenship and his rights and obligations. He is doing his best to ensure that all citizens can enjoy the same citizenship as he does. He welcomed a modernation of the policy and legislative system for the transision in Romania. He stated that EU funds will not support the institutions but infrastructure that will be used for the modernistiaon of small scale availability of services. He also emphasised the need for an integrated approach with social funds and development funds. According to his words DI is destructing and not building walls and that there is a need for a focus on the prevention of institutionalization. The best way is to ensure full integration of disabled children, hence a good place to start the process is the school system. He claimed that it is essential to use national funds for the process and not only EU funding. The strategy needs a well developed action plan with the identification of all funding including the EU, national and international funding. Political ownership is needed. This is not only a government responsibiltiy, but one of the regions, municipalities and the general public.

Cerasela Predescu, the Executive Director of Pro ACT Suport, gave an account of how her organisaiton is helping people to leave the institutions. She showed presentation slides of several people who after many years in the institution are now living lives with quality in the society.

Elisabeta Moldovan, a self-advocated person and Vice president of Ceva de Spus, gave her own account of now living in the society after more than 30 years spent in an institution. She claimed that what disabled people need is support and not protection and demanded a closure of institutions. She needed support when she first moved to a rented flat as she had many things to learn that she had not done in the instution – like paying bills for instance. But now she lives and works with little support and is happy to have her own home.

ENIL was invited to speak about Independent Living. Jamie Bolling, Executive Director of ENIL, told the participants that she found exciting that DI is on the agenda and being implemented in Romania, which means that Independent Living is on the agenda. ENIL was pleased to hear that the institutions would be closed by 2020 and welcomed the changes that are taking place. ENIL is glad that no more EU funding will be spent on institutions but on DI, as promised by Aurelio Cecilio, the Head of the Unit Romania, Bulgaria, Malta, DG Employment in the European Commission.

Jamie Bolling’s last presentation slide was of a new large institution funded by the Orthodox church in the county of Zaclau. It is called a ‚center for social services’ and is intended to house 50 elderly and 30 children. She expressed her fear that the children entering this institution, would be put at high risk of never leaving the institution. She asked where the funding for the everyday running of this large building wouldl come from. She also said that it is atrocious that this is being permitted. The rights of these people are being breached! They should be living in families or at least in small homes. If there are buildings to be used – use them as training centers for all those people who need to be trained in this DI process that is to be accelerated and is committed to now by the Romanian government.

Jamie Bolling – Director of ENIL – European Network on Independent Living


Photo: The building of a new institution

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