Disability Watchdog: Wallonia to Invest Millions into Institutions for Disabled People (June 2017)
The Saint Lazarus Foundation, proud and active members of the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) is deeply concerned about the planned investments into institutions for disabled people by the Government of Wallonia, Belgium. According to Belgian press, a total of 63 million Euros will be invested into institutional care, out of which 50 million Euros will be invested into renovating old institutions from the 1960s and 1970s, 10 million Euros into creating new places for people with autism, physical disabilities and multiple disabilities, with 3 million Euros dedicated to people with very high support needs.
Belgium has a high rate of institutionalisation, and especially in Wallonia, institutionalisation remains the main option for disabled people. With very limited independent living options, such as personal assistance, available, there are long waiting lists for institutional care. As a result, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner and the civil society organisations, have been calling for urgent measures to develop community-based alternatives to institutional care. Specifically, the CRPD Committee demanded in 2014 that Belgium "work towards deinstitutionalisation by reducing investment into collective infrastructure and promoting personal choice".
Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) requires States to ensure all disabled people have access to a "range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community". Despite ratifying the CRPD in 2009, there has been no progress in Wallonia in this regard. In fact, the planned investment of 63 million Euros into institutional care is a flagrant violation of the CRPD, and will further delay disabled people's access to independent living.
ENIL urges the Walloon Government to reconsider the planned investments into institutions for disabled people, and instead, puts in place a deinstitutionalisation strategy that will ensure all funds go into developing community-based services for disabled people. Such strategy should be developed in close consultation with organisations of disabled people with expertise in independent living.
We also call on the European Commission and the European Parliament to make it clear to Belgium that continued institutionalisation of disabled people is not compatible with the EU's CRPD obligations, nor EU's laws and policies that promote social inclusion. Any future investments should uphold the rights of disabled people in Wallonia, and should bring them closer - not further - to living independently in the community.