Vienna and Brussels, 20 April 2021 – Independent Living Austria (ILA) and the European Network for Independent Living (ENIL) filed a second official complaint to the European Commission against Austria. The complaint concerns the misuse of an estimated 3.2 million EUR from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), used in Tyrol for the renovation and construction of institutions for disabled people.
These include five residential institutions and three sheltered workshops for adults, and a large institution for children with disabilities. ILA and ENIL strongly condemn the use of money from the European Structural and Investment Funds for the continued segregation of disabled people in such facilities.
“By maintaining special institutions only for disabled people, segregation and isolation are continued,” says Bernadette Feuerstein, chairwoman of ILA. “The money from the Structural Funds should be used for the expansion of personal assistance for children and adults with disabilities, and for inclusion in the open labour market.” This would provide those living in rural areas with an opportunity to exercise their right to participation and independent living, as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“The fact that the Tyrolean state government is investing a total of 3 million EUR – half of it EAFRD funds – in the renovation of a special school with boarding facilities leaves me speechless,” says Feuerstein, “Why wasn’t this money invested in inclusive measures so that children can attend school in their hometown and live with their families?” Just a year ago, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child repeatedly reprimanded Austria for a lack of strategies for the inclusion of children with disabilities.
As with the first complaint against the Upper Austrian state government, filed in July 2020, ILA and ENIL are asking the European Commission to take action and initiate infringement proceedings. ILA and ENIL believe that there is a solid legal basis for this. The right of disabled people to live independently, to work and employment, and to protection against discrimination are among the common values of the EU and are enshrined in law.
“The new Disability and Child Rights strategies, adopted by the European Union this year, are committed to moving away from institutional care. It is time we see these commitments translated into action”, concluded Nadia Hadad, the Co-chair of ENIL, adding that “The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us how devastating failure to act can be for children and adults living in institutions.”
Notes for the editors:
Independent Living Austria (ILA) is the nationwide advocacy organisation of the Independent Living Movement in Austria. As an umbrella organisation, ILA aims at creating preconditions for the independent living of persons with disabilities and their equality in all spheres of live. In line with the principle “Nothing about us without us” and the self-advocacy right of persons with disabilities, ILA represents and supports initiatives, organisations and individuals in their fight for equality and against discrimination. The aim is to achieve equality of persons with disabilities and to fully enforce their rights as citizens.
The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) is a Europe-wide network of disabled people, with members throughout Europe. ENIL’s vision is of Europe where all disabled people are able to exercise choice and control over their lives, on an equal level with others; where they are valued members of the community and can enjoy all of their human rights, as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). ENIL’s mission is to advocate and lobby for Independent Living values, principles and practices, namely for a barrier-free environment, provision of personal assistance support and adequate technical aids, together making full citizenship of disabled people possible. ENIL’s activities target European, national and local administrations, politicians, media, and the general society. See: www.enil.eu
[Photo shows an institution for disabled adults co-funded by the EU in Upper Austria]