Over €2.7 billion of European Union funds have been redirected away from harmful institutions such as orphanages, but new research released today (Monday) shows how Member States need to go further to transition from outdated care systems towards community-based living.
A new report released today, titled Inclusion for All: Achievements and Challenges in Using EU Funds to Support Community Living, outlines to what extent 12 EU Member States* have adopted strategies or action plans to shift away from institutions for children, adults with disabilities and older people.
Georgette Mulheir, CEO at Lumos, part of Community Living for Europe: Structural Funds Watch (CLE:SFW) which conducted the research, said: “The European Union has shown impressive leadership in diverting €2.7 billion away from harmful institutions and into community-based services.
“European countries have taken important steps to transform systems of care and support for children, adults with disabilities and older people.
“But more needs to be done. Community and family living is a human right and no EU funds should be used for institutional care.
“We would urge the European financial regulations for the next programming period 2021–2027 to exclude investment in institutions.”
The EU has become a world leader in transforming systems of care and support for children and adults.
The 2014–2020 European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Regulations required countries to create and implement strategies on poverty reduction, including measures for the transition from institutional to community-based care.
This has led to an estimated €2.7 billion being driven towards reforming care systems and reducing dependence on institutional care in the 12 countries covered by the research.
In order to comply with ex-ante conditionality 9.1 in the ESIF Regulations, Member States must demonstrate that they have a national strategic policy framework for poverty reduction and active inclusion.
It is estimated that more than one million children, adults with disabilities and older people live in institutions in Europe. However, as few countries have developed a centralised database of numbers of people in institutions, there is no accurate European total.
Today’s research, conducted by Community Living for Europe: Structural Funds Watch (CLE:SFW), shows that eight of the 12 Member States have adopted strategies or action plans to shift away from institutions, while two are in the process of adopting them.
The strategies have been translated into concrete action, and ESIF have been used to support the development or delivery of community-based services that can help end institutionalisation.
Actions to support the transition from institutions to community-based living include day care centres, home-based care and respite centres for children, care for adults with disabilities and older people, community mental health support and assistive technologies to support independent living and employment.
However, the report also highlights concerns that countries are reorganising institutional care by restructuring and repurposing institutional buildings or creating smaller institutions, such as group homes.
Several States have placed seemingly arbitrary caps of between eight and 30 residents on group homes. Apart from the reduction in size, it is unclear what – if any – measures are being taken to ensure residents will enjoy their human rights on an equal basis with others.
High levels of investment in smaller-scale models of institutional care will be an obstacle to further reform and continue to deny people their rights.
Other concerns have arisen in relation to groups such as refugees and asylum seekers, who are held in settings which have all the characteristics of an institution but are usually not covered by transition strategies.
In the remainder of this programming period and in the next, CLE:SFW recommends that countries focus on the development of quality family and community-based services, inclusive education, community-based health care that is fully inclusive and accessible, strengthening the economy and ensuring full access to inclusive employment services and supported independent living.
MEP Ramon Luis Valcárcel Siso (EPP) and Vice-President of the European Parliament, said: “Children, people with disabilities and older people must always be in the heart of European solidarity, which is best enshrined in the EU Cohesion Policy.
“To maximise its potential, we need to advance simplification and enabling of synergies between different funds, so that we can make the most of every Euro we dedicate to improving the lives of people at risk of social exclusion.”
Read the full report here.