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EASPD urges the European Union to self-evaluate how co-production is reflected in existing legal frameworks

Commitment, structural collaboration, mutual respect, willingness to make progress, better choice, autonomy and advocacy. All these elements are essential to comply with the principles set forth in the UN Convention and to implement co-production, which is an inclusive working practice between experts by experience (users) and organisations being of support. EASPD organised a Hearing in the European Parliament with key stakeholders to exchange the best way to develop co-production processes in Europe and warned that the existing EU and national legal frameworks do not always follow the realities and needs on the ground.

On 2nd June EASPD organised a panel debate with Members of the European Parliament (MEP), Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) and service providers on how to organise and implement services that reflect users’ needs and wishes. The Hearing was part of the EASPD multiannual strategy “Reaching Out” and focused on how structural cooperation can better work in the disability field and how users and support services can cooperate with national governments and the European Union to implement the principles of the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).


More precisely, participants commented on the so-called “Co-production” process which could represent one of the ways to achieve this. Co-production is described as an inclusive working practice between experts by experience (users) and organisations being of support. This process allows users to be in control of their lives, while taking ownership and expressing choice through active and meaningful partnerships.


The Hearing, officiated at the European Parliament in Brussels, gathered a vast range of stakeholders. MEP Richard Howitt (S&D/UK) hosted the event and chaired the first panel session. He opened discussions with an “acknowledgement that there isn’t always sufficient control today by disabled people over the services they receive.” This debate about co-production, he added “is an attempt to maximise control and choice where it has been absent or where there has been a shortfall in the past.” Franz Wolfmayr, EASPD President, took the floor and pointed out that in many countries, support services are being redesigned but “legal frameworks do not always follow the realities in the disability field and modern types of services”, he added.


Annelisa Cotone of the European Commission’s DG Justice elaborated how the principles of autonomy, dignity and user involvement are reflected in current European legislation. On the 19th May the Commission adopted the ‘Better Regulation Package,’ which places the CRPD in high priority. Nevertheless, Ms. Cotone remarked that now is a “very good time for reflection,” the Commission’s Disability Strategy halfway to its conclusion, as well as the EU’s implementation of the UNCRPD being under review.


Helga Stevens MEP, (ECR/BE) moderated the second panel debate where a broad range of opinions on the concept of co-production were presented. Alain Faure of the European Disability Forum highlighted that “we have to work through structured dialogue on availability, accessibility, affordability, adequacy, attractiveness, good trained staff, individualised services and cooperation with families”. Maria Nyman of Mental Health Europe remarked that “if implemented in the right way, co-production is a very positive thing that we need to work towards.” Peter Lambreghts of the European Network on Independent Living said that co-production is a big challenge that “belongs to the practice, not to theory”. “It is about cooperation and collaboration with a passion to change things”, he said.


Brando Benifei MEP, (S&D/IT) spoke of the issues faced by service providers under times of economic uncertainty, stating “It is an impelling duty of policy makers at all levels to solve any eventual contradiction between the goal of an inclusive society and austerity measures, monitoring possible cuts that do not undermine fundamental rights and accessibility of services.” “We need an integrated approach in policy tools, funding streams and policy making”, he added.


The central focus of the hearing was to bring stakeholders together to assess the value of co-production and present cases of best practice. James Crowe of Learning Disability Wales, Jolijn Santegoeds of the European Network of (Ex)-Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (ENUSP), Aurélie Baranger of Autism Europe, Mark Wheatley of European Union of the Deaf, Senada Halilcevic of the European Platform of Self-Advocates and Bernadette Grosyeux of Centre de la Gabrielle each proffered cases of best practise for potential replication at the European level.


To sum up the debate, Luk Zelderloo, EASPD Secretary General, pointed out that “Co-production can bring better outcomes for users, more interesting jobs for staff, better steer resources available, help us to be more innovative”, but “we cannot forget that it is part of a broader framework and we should all together look at if the legal frameworks facilitate and promote this type of change”, he added.

Material of the Hearing
Note to editors

The European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities is a non-profit European umbrella organization, established in 1996, and currently representing over 11.000 social and health services for persons with disabilities. EASPD advocates effective and high-quality disability-related services in the field of education, employment and individualised support, in line with the UN CRPD principles, which could bring benefits not only to persons with disabilities, but to society as a whole.



Nieves Tejada Castro, EASPD Communications Officer
Katerina Ward, EASPD Communications Assistant