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It is time to stop putting persons with disabilities into institutions

Deinstitutionalisation of people with disabilities

It is time to stop putting persons with disabilities into institutions, but rather to help them transition to supported independent living, says PACE’s Social Affairs Committee.

Unanimously adopting a draft resolution, as well as a draft recommendation to governments, based on a report by Reina de Bruijn-Wezeman (Netherlands, ALDE), the committee pointed out that the UN had clearly shifted to a human rights-based approach to disability which underlined equality and inclusion.

“Persons with disabilities are often presumed to be unable to live independently. This is rooted in widespread misconceptions, including that persons with disabilities lack the ability to make sound decisions for themselves, and that they need ‘specialised care’ provided for in institutions,” the committee pointed out.

“For too long, these arguments have been used to wrongfully deprive persons with disabilities of their liberty and segregate them from the rest of the community,” the parliamentarians added. “Measures must be taken to combat this culture.”

The committee proposed that laws authorising institutionalisation of people with disabilities be progressively repealed, as well as mental health legislation allowing for treatment without consent and detention based on impairment. Governments should develop adequately-funded strategies, with clear time-frames and benchmarks, for a genuine transition to independent living for persons with disabilities.

The committee also urged the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers to refrain from endorsing or adopting draft legal texts which “would make successful and meaningful deinstitutionalisation, as well as the abolition of coercive practices in mental health settings, more difficult”, singling out the draft additional protocol to the Oviedo Convention which is currently under consideration within the Council of Europe.

The report is due to be debated by the Assembly at its April session, when it will take a final position.