European Parliament Committee on Petitions Fact-finding visit to Bratislava
22-23rd September 2016.
Subject matter: use of EU structural funds in long-term residential centre’s for persons with disabilities in the Slovak Republic.
Members of the delegation:
Ms. Cecilia Wikström Head of delegation (ALDE) Mr. Peter Jahr (EPP) Ms. Soledad Cabezón Ruiz (S&D) Mr. Demetris Papadakis (S&D) Ms. Kostadinka Kuneva (GUE/NGL)
Accompanying Members: Mr. Pál Csáky (EPP, SK) Mr. Vladimir Maňka (S&D, SK)
Full mission report and recommendations can be found here.
“Life integrated in society should not be seen as a reward, but as a right for all people with disabilities.” Stakeholder at the consultation with NGO’s
Consultation with NGOs included:
- Open Society Foundations
- The National Council of Persons with Disabilities in the Slovak Republic
- the Slovak Association for Help to People with Intellectual Disabilities
- Mental Disability Advocacy Center
- Centre for the Research of Ethnicity and Culture
- Social Work Advisory Board
Consultation with the Slovak authorities included: senior hierarchy of the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic, including the Minister, the representative of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Slovak Republic and the senior hierarchy of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and Information. The former two are the Managing Authorities of the ESF and the ERDF respectively, while the latter is the central coordination authority for the management of the European Structural and Investment Funds, established as of 1 June 2016.
There was common understanding between the PETI delegation Members and the consulted stakeholders in Slovakia that changing the name plates on the doors of long-term residential institutions or creating mini-institutions is indeed not deinstitutionalization and it should not be supported by the EU. The responsibility lies primarily with the European Commission in the context of shared management, who building on the feedback of competent and very active disability NGOs, can make a change and cut EU funds that are not correctly used. The European Parliament shall on its behalf maintain strong scrutiny over the deinstitutionalization process in Slovakia, which pledge it can assume with the active support of the Slovak government authorities, who had committed during the PETI visit to informing PETI on a regular basis in writing about the roadmap and concrete achievements made in the progress of deinstitutionalization in Slovakia. The first written report on how EU funds contribute to deinstitutionalization and how projects are progressing in Slovakia was promised to be sent to PETI until the end of 2016.
Some issues in the area of DI:
- NGO obligation to co-finance the national project for deinstitutionalisation.
- Lack of commitment by local authorities to engage in DI and scarce resources.
- Sustainability of EU funded DI projects
- Danger of creating mini institutions (small group homes)
- Lack of information and public awareness
- accessibility of mainstream goods and services
- Inclusion of people with disabilities and building on their involvement
- Legal Capacity restrictions on people with disabilities
Discussion points between the PETI Committee and Slovak authorities:
- Strategic documents endorsing DI
- Degree of coordination between ERDF and ESF investments
- Bodies monitoring progress of DI
- Planned use of ESIF for DI in the programming period 2014-2020
- Financing of social services
The delegation of MEPs visited three types of facilities:
1. A day-care centre: a community based facility.
2. A facility employing people with disabilities.
3. A large capacity residential institution.
The PETI Committee made 20 Recommendations to the Slovak authorities following their visit. Some of these are stated below:
2. Emphasizes the need for EU funds to be used to build social inclusion and to make a noticeable contribution to the respect for human rights in Slovakia, regretting that currently there is no enforceable right for people with disabilities to live independently;
4. Welcomes the commitment shown on behalf of the Slovak authorities during the PETI visit to rectify the delays occurred in the deinstitutionalization process in Slovakia, as well as the pledge to pass on the PETI delegations’ message to the respective Monitoring Committees to speed up the deinstitutionalization process in Slovakia, noticing that building up services to facilitate the transition to community based care in Slovakia can greatly contribute to this goal;
5. Welcomes the information that six out of eight self-governing regions in Slovakia are ready to launch projects upon the presentation of the two calls for proposals under the Integrated Regional Operational Programme in October 2016, as well as the readiness of the Slovak government to expedite deinstitutionalization activities from October 2016 onwards;
7. Suggests the making of a comparative analysis concerning the number of people with disabilities still in institutions in the 28 EU Member States, with particular regard to the impact of the financial crisis on deinstitutionalization in the European Union and future perspectives;
9. Calls the attention of the Slovak authorities to the condition of sustainability of the deinstitutionalization projects pointing out that there needs to be exact follow-up to measure the sustainability level, at the same time emphasizing that better financing for social services should be also a priority in the post 2014-2020 EU budget;
10. Invites the Slovak authorities to make full use of the officially established Interdepartmental Working Group and to start and intensify its work without any further delay;
15. Calls on the Slovak authorities to ensure that the receivers of the monthly state funded care benefit be not the municipalities maintaining the institutions, but the persons with disabilities themselves, underlining that such a method should be supportive of deinstitutionalisation as it would give the dependents the choice regarding the form of care;
16. Urges the Slovak authorities to attempt to reduce bureaucratic obstacles to public procurement procedures related to projects supporting deinstitutionalization and to observe utmost transparency in the course of the related public procurement procedures;
20. Urges the European Commission to further look into the situation of investments in institutions for people with disabilities in Slovakia and to support the systematic evaluation of the progress and efficiency of the transition from institutional to community-based care, as well as encourages the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgets to further examine the subject matter.