Portugal needs a national strategy for persons with disability
This was the main finding of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and Permanent Study Group on Disability rights (PSG DIS) visit to Portugal in 2018. This visit occurred to assess the effects of the austerity measures followed by the economic crisis.
When one analyses a specific target group with disability and the support measures foreseen by the law, the indicators of Portugal are between good and average. However, the force of the law is not accompanied by the allocation of funds to implement it.
For children from 0 to 6 years old, Portugal has a unique national system of early intervention support, where the teams are formed by professionals from a large array of areas of expertise representing the ministries of health, education and social affairs, all working together. However, early intervention teams have too small capacity to deliver services to those who need it, as 40% of the real needs are supported by the communities.
From 6 to 18, almost all students with disability are in mainstream schools, with the support of resource centres for inclusion. However, schools cannot open more services to keep up with the increasing number of students with disabilities and special support needs. Even the resource centres for inclusion only target a small group of students with more severe disabilities and their support is reduced to an average of 30 minutes support per week.
There are vocational and professional training centres for persons with disability. However, due to funding cuts, these courses have been reduced from a 4 year, to a 2 years course, and there is pressure to reduce them further to a one year course.
Social security has subsidies for persons with disabilities and their families. However, these subsidies are medical based subsidies which are not sensible to individual needs and, inevitably, they are less sensible to persons with intellectual disabilities.
There are specific measures for supporting employment. However, the funding model is still under construction and the response times by the governmental unemployment services are long as it takes them more than one year to react.
There are programs that support independent living, but not yet in action since there are doubts about the financial capacity to fund them.
As an organization that provides services for persons with disabilities, the lack of continuity of support through out the life of a person with disability is clear. The services identified previously are not articulated under the same principles and sometimes they even contradict themselves. It is urgent to define a national strategy to guarantee a more harmonious transition from services and age groups, that is where often the main problems of dependency and institutionalization occur.
Executive Director of Special Education
C.E.C.D. Mira Sintra, Portugal
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