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From “guardians” to “supporters”: Supported Decision Making in service provision for person with disabilities

In the framework of the Erasmus+ project I-DECIDE, a new report gathers information about the global situation of Supported Decision Making. The report reflects particularly on the support perspective and the day to day practice in the areas of personal finances, healthcare and consumer rights.


Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) acknowledges the right of persons with disabilities to enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life. In line with this principle, Supported Decision Making (SDM) represents an alternative to guardianship or other types of substituted decision making. This shift is fundamental to advancing towards the real inclusion of persons with disabilities into society.

There are still big differences in the implementation of the UN CPRD around the world. Specifically, in terms of SDM, this still lags behind the adoption of other parts of the Convention. Most EU countries have passed laws and reforms to embed (to some extent) the principles of article 12 UNCRPD, but very few of them include provisions that refer specifically to a support perspective. The new paradigm seems be slowly becoming acknowledged.  However, comprehensive legal reforms and more practical guidance are needed to speed up the adoption of Supported Decision Making principles.

The I-DECIDE report contains an overview of promising practices and policies that can help to produce such practical guidance. It also reflects on the change management process that three service providers’ organisations experienced when implementing the SDM paradigm in their organisations.

The way forward: I-DECIDE Decalogue

Even though some countries have achieved significant advances in this field, a clear majority of changes are focused exclusively on the more complex legal decisions such as marital status or place of residence. There is a clear gap between the protective measures for such important ‘high-level’ decisions, and those related to daily routines that greatly affect a person’s life and the work of support services. In this context, the I-DECIDE partners have produced a set of 10 recommendations that can contribute to the development of empowering and supportive decision-making mechanisms: person centred planning, experiential learning, lifelong approach, training for families, personal budgets, sustainable funding for service providers, informal networks of support, specialisation of support and development of ICT-based solutions facilitating the implementation of SDM mechanisms, integral support and support networks for the supporters.  Of course, the introduction and development of the Supported Decision Making principles must be supported by first adjusting the laws to promote and establish this approach as the only one legally valid. And these legal frameworks need to strongly consider the continuum of support.

The full report (available in English) can be consulted here.

For more information, please contact Carmen Arroyo de Sande, EASPD Development Manager ( )

Note to editors

I-DECIDE is an Erasmus+ funded project (running from October 2017 until March 2020) addressed to help adults with intellectual disabilities to make supported decisions in the areas of personal finance, healthcare and consumer rights.

The project seeks to advance the implementation of article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) through the promotion of Supported Decision Making (SDM),  a  tool  that  allows  people  with  disabilities  to  retain  their  decision-making capacity by choosing supporters to help them make choices. I-DECIDE wants to develop practical guidance for the supporters to be able to help the person with a disability understand, consider, and communicate decisions, fully respecting the wishes and preferences of the individual.

The project is led by SUPPORT Fundació Tutelar de les Comarques Gironines and has partners in Belgium (EASPD), Finland (KVPS), Greece (Margarita), Spain (FCAE) and the UK (SCT).