Wasted Time, Wasted Money, Wasted Lives ... A Wasted Opportunity?

On 24 March 2010 - the European Coalition for Community Living (ECCL) published a new report highlighting that European Union funding is being used in some EU Member States of Central and Eastern Europe to renovate, or build new, residential institutions for people with disabilities. This means that disabled people continue to be segregated from society and puts them at risk of serious human rights abuses.

ECCL's report points out that such use of EU funding (known as the Structural Funds) continues despite EU and Member States' policies that emphasise the need to protect the rights of disabled people and promote their social inclusion. Numerous reports over the last decade have brought to light the horrific reality of institutional care for many disabled adults and children in Central and Eastern Europe. They have shown the appalling living conditions; use of physical restraints, physical and sexual abuse of some residents by other residents and sometimes staff; inadequate clothing; involuntary placements subject to no independent review; the lack of privacy and the absence of rehabilitative or therapeutic activities.


The report, ‘Wasted Time, Wasted Money, Wasted Lives ... A Wasted Opportunity?’, argues that the practice of using Structural Funds to maintain the system of institutional care is contrary to EU policy objectives, EU law and European and international human rights standards.


Camilla Parker, the main author of the report, commented: ‘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.’


ECCL's report notes that Structural Funds have the potential to provide the resources and expertise to help Governments shift from the current system of institutional care to providing support to disabled people to live in their own homes and participate in community life. The report comments that failure to use Structural Funds to develop community-based alternatives to institutional care will be a wasted opportunity and an inefficient use of substantial amounts of money. Of more fundamental importance, those most in need for these changes to take place - the disabled adults and children placed in residential institutions - will be the ones to suffer. They will continue to be segregated, excluded from society; denied the opportunity to live their life as other citizens do.


In the report, ECCL outlines a number of recommendations addressed to Member States and the European Commission. These include the urgent review of the current use of Structural Funds in relation to services for disabled people, in particular the need to end investments in residential institutions. In addition, EU funded projects in this area must make explicit how they will support the implementation of EU social inclusion policies, the national strategies for social inclusion of people with disabilities and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


The Report and the Executive Summary can be downloaded from the ECCL website.