European Union funds are being used to build large new residential institutions for disabled people across eastern and central Europe, according to a new report.
The European Coalition for Community Living (ECCL) said structural funds – money earmarked for development – were also being used to renovate existing institutions in European Union member states such as Romania, Hungary and Latvia.
Wasted Time, Wasted Money, Wasted Lives … A Wasted Opportunity? says the funding for segregated institutions comes despite EU policies that seek to promote community living, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which recognises disabled people’s right to live in the community.
It says the money is being used to maintain the segregation of disabled people in large, remote institutions where “their exclusion from society is virtually absolute”.
A string of reports over the last decade have detailed the “horrific reality” of institutional care for many disabled adults and children in central and eastern Europe, it says, highlighting the use of physical restraints, malnutrition, physical and sexual abuse, poor sanitation, inadequate clothing, and the lack of privacy.
Research suggests there are at least 300,000 disabled people living in long-stay residential institutions across the 10 EU member states in central and eastern Europe – many of them people with learning difficulties or mental health conditions.
The report says a continuing failure to use EU structural funds to develop community-based alternatives to institutions would be “a wasted opportunity and an inefficient use of substantial amounts of money”, while disabled people would remain segregated and excluded from society.
Camilla Parker, the report’s author, said: “The continued institutionalisation of disabled people is not acceptable in the Europe of the 21st century.
“Residents are often subjected to severe human rights violations and generally their quality of life is very poor.
“Investing in such long-term residential institutions is therefore not a good use of public funds. Structural funds should not be used to maintain this archaic system of institutional care.”
The report calls for the EU to review its use of structural funds, for disabled people’s organisations to be closely involved in future monitoring of how the funds are used, and for the removal of barriers to using the money to develop community-based services.
1 April 2010