Sustained efforts by the international aid community working with the EU are needed to address persistent problems of institutionalisation of people with disabilities in some European countries, according to Mairead McGuinness, MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament who this week facilitated a discussion on advancing the issue with European Commissioner for Regional Development, Coriana Cretu, and Irish activist John Mulligan of Focus on Romania.
Concern was expressed that ways were being found to circumvent an initiative for which McGuinness was responsible, that is, the revision of EU structural fund rules that preclude the use of structural funds for the construction or renovation of institutions, so that funds can be directed towards projects that support community living.
Following the meeting on Tuesday the MEP expressed optimism that the problem can be resolved with Commissioner Mrs Cretu committing to tackle the issue in the coming days and to follow through with further meetings in Brussels and Romania later this year.
Ms McGuinness said that Irish and other NGOs have been working to close down inappropriate institutions and move the residents into independent community settings, but there has been limited effort by local authorities to action this in Romania.
“Commissioner Cretu is very clearly committed to ensuring that the structural fund rules are applied effectively, and that was clearly evident,“ she said.
Irish NGOs had expressed their concern that Local Authorities in several countries were attempting to create ‘mini institutions’ by clustering groups of EU funded homes in what is effectively an institutional setting, managed with an institutional ethos.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises the right of all people to live in society, and recognises that having or acquiring a disability should not exclude anyone from normal community life.