“EU money should be used to support independent living, not institutions”, said MEP Richard Howitt who hosted the Policy Seminar “Putting citizens at the centre of politics”. Inclusion Europe organised this final event of the European project New Paths to InclUsion Network on 19 November at the European Parliament.
The three-year project has underlined the importance of putting individuals at the centre, on their paths to independent living. The New Paths to InclUsion Network, which comprises 19 organisations from 13 countries in Europe and Canada, promotes the use of person-centred planning in the transition from institutional to community-based living.
Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) guarantees that all persons with disabilities have the right to live independently and participate in the community. The involvement of families and communities in supporting people with disabilities to live independently is essential for the creation of inclusive societies. Partners from the New Paths to InclUsion Network shared the good practices they collected during the project, proving that person-centred planning is an effective tool in the implementation of the UN CRPD.
The seminar was the occasion to learn from success stories of person-centred planning in a large number of countries and settings. We also heard testimonies of persons with disabilities such as Božidar Kobasić from Croatia who used to live in an institution for more than 30 years and now has “successfully started a new life in the community”. Speakers at the Policy Seminar included Jan Jarab, Regional Representative for Europe of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Annelisa Cottone from the Disability Unit of the European Commission, as well as heads of European-level Disability NGOs, project partners and self-advocates.
Having ratified the UN CRPD, the EU needs to abide by its provisions. This has been emphasised by the UN Committee overseeing the implementation of the Convention. Last summer, the Committee reviewed the EU performance and published their Concluding Observations. In its review, the UN Committee denounced the use of EU funds for maintenance of residential institutions rather than for development of support services for persons with disabilities in local communities.
Announcing that the European Parliament is currently working on a report on the Concluding Observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, MEP Richard Howitt stressed the importance of the seminar, which allowed self-advocates to meet decision-makers from EU institutions. “The European Parliament can be a strong vehicle for practical action. Tell us what you want to see included in our report.”, said Mr. Howitt to the many self-advocates present in the audience.
This dialogue with EU institutions was also encouraged by Annelisa Cottone from the European Commission who announced that a public consultation on the EU Disability Strategy will be launched before the end of the year. Inclusion Europe particularly welcomes the decision of the European Commission to make this consultation available in Easy-to-Read format, and thus accessible for people with intellectual disabilities. As Ms. Cottone concluded, “It is important to bring your stories and experiences to the EU institutions.”
For more information, please contact Inclusion Europe Communications Officer Vanessa Vovor at firstname.lastname@example.org.