European Pillar of Social Rights: A promise for people with intellectual disabilities and their families
A first proposal for a European Pillar of Social Rights was published last week – and Inclusion Europe welcomes it as a promising step. The Pillar is the European Commission’s framework to “deliver new and more effective rights for citizens”. It includes several important principles for people with intellectual disabilities and their family members. However, a number of clarifications and additions are needed to make the Pillar a strong and useful tool.
First of all, the proposal states that the Commission will “continue to mainstream matters relating to disability in all relevant Union policies and legislation, including in all relevant areas of the European Pillar of Social Rights”. Inclusion Europe salutes this acknowledgement of the importance of mainstreaming disability rights. We strongly encourage that all persons with disabilities, including persons with intellectual disabilities and high support needs, are taken into account.
A number of other areas are of particular interest to people with intellectual disabilities and their families:
- Access to the labour market
This area mentions the difficulties that persons with disabilities experience when they are looking for a job, and the right to equal opportunities is emphasized. Inclusion Europe appreciates this; however, particular attention should be paid to the high rate of unemployment amongst persons with intellectual disabilities and their family members and the lack of support which could help them access the labour market. It is vital to introduce measures to open the labour market for people with intellectual disabilities, so they can contribute to society through work and enjoy the advantages of paid employment.
Inclusion Europe appreciates the Pillar’s statement on education: “Everyone has the right to quality and inclusive education, training and life-long learning in order to maintain and acquire skills that enable them to participate fully in society and manage successfully transitions in the labour market.”
It is important that the specific proposals ensure this, as children and young people with intellectual disabilities are still being segregated from mainstream education in many countries.
- Legal capacity
The Pillar presumes full citizenship of people in the European Union. But many people are denied full participation in society as they are denied legal capacity: They can neither vote nor stand for election, they cannot enter paid employment, and they cannot get married. Unless this injustice is corrected, they won’t be able to benefit from the promising proposals of a more social Europe.
Summarising Inclusion Europe’s position, IE President Maureen Piggot commented:
The European Commission has taken into account the voice of civil society when drafting the European Pillar of Social Rights. Persons with intellectual disabilities and high support needs are often left behind when general strategies are being implemented. Therefore, mainstreaming disability rights should apply to all persons with disabilities and safeguards for the most vulnerable must be established in all aspects of life.