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Members' Voice: Unapei’s initiative leads to collective complaint against France

On 14 May, the European Disability Forum (EDF) and Inclusion Europe lodged a collective complaint against France in front of the European Committee of Social Rights. The collective complaint is an instrument available to entitled European NGOs to denounce infringements of the European Social Charter. It has already been used against France to advance the rights of persons with autism and of persons with poor housing conditions. In the present case, the complaint denounces the lack of access of persons with disabilities to an independent life included in society, and its impact on families.

This complaint started as an Unapei initiative to tackle the issue of persons with intellectual disabilities left without access to support services. This situation has been going for decades in France, and despite advocacy efforts, media campaigning and successful strategic litigation at national level, there is still not political commitment to ensure access to services to the thousands and thousands of persons. Following Unapei’s invitation to other organisations of persons with disabilities and their families to join the initiative, four other French associations joined, widening the scope of the complaint to also address the lack of access to personal assistance, to mainstream services, to health and to housing, as well as the lack of supportive policy framework. We are very grateful to EDF and Inclusion Europe, two organisations entitled to do so, for lodging the complaint as well as for their guidance.

The argumentation of the complaint is carved out around the European Social Charter, but also, of course, around the UN CRPD and in particular its article 19. Community-based service provision for persons with disabilities is key in relation to our complaint. Choice, availability, affordability, de-institutionalisation, inclusiveness, accessibility, etc.: these are the numerous challenges which need to be overcome in France. In our country, the State has mostly delegated service provision for persons with disabilities to associations. More than often, French governments are using this as an argument to make up for their lack of action. Our collective complaint will force French authorities to confront their responsibilities as a signatory of international and European human right treaties to provide the adequate legal, policy and financial framework for persons with disabilities to lead an independent life included in society. The Committee should adopt its decision by the end of 2020. A positive outcome would also have an impact in other European countries, where the European Social Charter also applies.

Gerhard Kowalski, 
Board Member of Unapei.


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Members' voice is an open space for EASPD member organisations to publish their opinion articles on our newsletter. This article does not necessarily reflect the official position of EASPD.