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A Reality Check on the Situation of Disability Support Services: 6 Key Messages to EU Policy-makers

On Thursday 12th September 2019, EASPD Members from 8  different EU countries gathered in Brussels to deliver their messages on the pressing issues regarding service provision in their country and the role of the European Semester in contributing to a solution. Their messages have been compiled in a report released on the same day: Disability Support Services in the EU: A Reality Check. It outlines issues in service provision that are still impeding persons with disabilities to fully be included in society, in particular on the labour market.
8 support services representatives entered into a dialogue with EU policy makers at EASPD’s annual event on the European Semester to highlight key issues for the sector in their countries. Providing data and information on the state of play of support provision across Europe, this review also served as an opportunity to look at how the European Pillar of Social Rights has an impact on EU social policies.
Assessing the situation in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Latvia, Romania and Spain, 6 key messages were drawn for EU policy-makers to consider in the next European Semester (2019-2020):

  1. Employment statistics do not reflect the reality on the ground. Many persons with disabilities are currently “inactive”, that is they are not looking for a job, therefore, employment data are far from the reality and  related policies are not addressing their needs
  2. Although the EU labour market is recovering, in several countries the unemployment rate of persons with disabilities is still very high; this indicates a need for a stronger investment in needed services that can support people to enter the labour market and t retain their job
  3. In some Member States, persons with support needs may be declared “unable to work”, a a non-human rights-compliant labelling that prevents them to work and to earn a salary (Austria, Belgium).
  4. Deinstitutionalisation processes are too much reliant on EU funding and their viability is put under threat due to the lack of strategies with clear goals and benchmarks.
  5. Access to support services should be enhanced by simplifying administrative procedures and by fostering dialogue between administrations and disability support services.
  6. Inclusive education systems are crucial to foster inclusion in society for persons with disabilities, the know-how of disability support services should be and fully provided in “mainstream” schools.

Elena Schubert, Policy Officer at the Disability and Inclusion Unit of the European Commission recognised the issues evoked by EASPD members and emphasised that “gaps are persisting so there is a need to act and for that, find effective and efficient ways”.
Luk Zelderloo, EASPD Secretary General concluded the event by remarking that “in order to go on the road of an inclusive society the European Semester has a role to play including with the new Annex D that can steer investment priorities and lead to a favourable ecosystem for service provision. This effort should go hand in hand with the important revision of national regulations that are still hindering full participation of persons with disabilities in society via needed support systems”.
EASPD and its members will continue their efforts in highlighting the impulses the Semester can provide for a more inclusive society. To this end, continuous dialogue with EU policy-makers will be pursued through different actions Civil Society Seminars organised by the European Commission and continuing our analysis of Member States investments in social and support services.

Related Material:
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 17,000 social and health support 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.

For more information, please contact:

Sabrina Ferraina
EASPD Policy Manager
T. +32 2 233 27 25