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Ageing and disability: shaping the agenda of tomorrow

On 21-22 March 2019  the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities  (EASPD) brought together partners and key stakeholders to set the agenda on the future provision of comprehensive, human rights-based support services, which can meet the needs of Europe’s ageing population and older people with disabilities.

As the world’s population is ageing, the percentage of persons with disabilities is growing. As we get older many of us, regardless of disability, may develop a range of support needs, making the provision of services an urgent issue for social welfare systems. In Europe today however, social welfare systems are struggling to meet the demands of their ageing societies.

EASPD tackled this and other issues during a two-day seminar, where case studies were presented along with experts’ inputs on several care and support issues.

Ageing is a phenomenon that concerns the whole world population and thus involves also persons with disabilities. While in the past the latter were less concerned, health and support care systems are now facing increasing demands for support which require a more organized and comprehensive address by society.

The social and health care provision landscape for older persons with disabilities shows that support is currently either provided by general mainstream services, or by specialized disability support services. Both types of services are experiencing shortages as the development of support has not anticipated increased demand, nor has been able to adapt its offer to different and rising needs. While the fragmentation of services has been determined by the necessity to respond  to demand with the limited resources available, it seems clear that a more comprehensive and better funded framework should be developed to ensure the needed support is readily available.

The seminar's discussions, which saw the participation of representatives from the academic world, EU institutions, elderly service provision, users’ representation and specialized support provision, made clear that individualised planning for older persons with disabilities is far from being realized due to a number of issues. A strong medicalized focus, the lack of or reduced legal capacity, the difficulties in accessing information, the risk of isolation and inappropriate staff training to meet specific needs of older persons with disabilities, are some of the challenges that older persons with disabilities face on a daily basis.

Mrs Inmaculada Placencia Porrero, Senior Expert from the Disability and Social Inclusion Unit of the European Commission, concluded the event confirming “the need to establish stronger links between ageing and disability, which would benefit from the incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). Cooperation with all civil society organisations should be pursued and enhanced through joint initiatives”.

EASPD President, Mr James Crowe, instead warned of the “necessity to keep focus on the availability, accessibility, affordability and accessibility of support services for older persons with disabilities. For these to be addressed adequately, greater coordination should take place at different levels as decreasing funding, the risk of marketisation of the sector and the lack of a structured political agenda may hinder the advancement and development of inclusive and community-based support offer.”

EASPD’s further actions will involve the collection and sharing of innovative models of practice, the exploration of case-management models to address coherently all needs and the development of a research agenda focusing on transition phases of life to identify and address needs and respond with support models in line with the UNCRPD. EASPD will also bring the topic onto the agenda of EU and UN stakeholders, promoting cross-sectoral cooperation and debates.

For more information, please contact:

Sabrina Ferraina
EASPD Policy Manager
T. +32 2 233 27 23

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 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.