Triggered by the BBC documentary on severe abuse of persons with disabilities in a care home near Bristol in the United Kingdom, the debate with regard to quality of support services and the risks of neglect in large segregating settings is again on the political agenda across Europe. The documentary shows how staff mistreated service users in a systematic way. There was no sign of the key characteristics of good supportive services such as individualised support empowering people to make choices and above all involving them in the design and delivery of the service. From both a human rights and a service provider’s perspective we reconfirm that community based, service user led support models are essential to minimise the risk of abuse and to ensure a high quality of life, and an active involvement in society. Community based services are services provided in the local community (independent living or supported housing services) freely chosen by the service users based on their support needs.
The degree of abuse uncovered in the documentary was horrific. However the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) believes that the potential for abuse is endemic in all segregated and unregulated services, especially where market forces drive down costs.
Support providers should be part of the solution, not of the problem
“While watching this documentary I had different feelings”, Franz Wolfmayr, President of EASPD, stressed. “Anger and shame. Anger because this type of abuse and violation of human right seems to still exist; shame for the good reason that services should support in such a way that people can live a decent life as respected citizens. Services should not degrade people. Authorities shall create the right conditions for the design of quality services”.
Immediate actions are possible
EASPD calls on the Member States and the European Institutions:
o To develop properly resourced deinstitutionalization strategies in all EU Member States and candidate countries. These plans should be set up in close cooperation with service users and providers
o To avoid an excessive for profit and cost cutting approach by both commissioners and providers in the social and health sector
o To fully use the Structural Funds to facilitate the establishment of community based support systems and for the retraining of staff active in the sector
o To ensure services are independently regulated
o To provide sustainable funding and stable legal frameworks for innovative person centred services and to reallocate the funding of large segregating settings.
o To include quality of life parameters, inclusion and community participation as key outcome indicators in the quality assurance systems. The quality assurance systems should be based on the voluntary Quality Framework launched by the Social Protection Committee.
o To implement Life Long Learning strategies for staff and organize a real social dialogue looking at the working conditions in the sector.
EASPD representing over 9000 service providing organisations is committed to working with users, their families and other stakeholders to combat these dangers across Europe.