Austerity is undermining independent living across Europe, MEPs are told


Activists have told MEPs that “austerity” measures are undermining disabled people’s right to independent living across Europe.

The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) held a hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels aimed at defending the right to independent living, a session hosted by MEPs from the European United Left/Nordic Green Left parliamentary group.

Leading disabled activists from ENIL and other organisations presented evidence about the impact of austerity measures on disabled people across the European Union (EU).

They pointed out that more than 1.2 million disabled people in the EU are already living in long-stay residential institutions because of the shortage of community-based services.

And they said that the right to personal assistance and other community support services was being further removed from disabled people or “downgraded” in many EU member states because of austerity measures.

They also told MEPs that disabled people – and their ability to live independently – were being disproportionately affected by cuts in public spending and that removing support services would force more disabled people into institutions, in “direct violation” of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

After the hearing, Jamie Bolling, ENIL’s executive director, said governments across Europe were using the same rhetoric as the UK government to try to justify their cuts.

She said: “Instead of speaking of full participation, it comes down to the most severe disabilities so they are now cutting out a lot of people, imprisoning a lot of people in institutions.

“It is not a question of survival, it is a question of participation in society and not just existing in your home.”

And she said that several EU governments – including those in Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands – were mirroring the hostile rhetoric used by the UK government in a bid to scapegoat disabled benefits claimants.

14 February 2012

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