Deinstitutionalisation in Belgium must ensure children’s rights, experts say

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In Belgium, children deprived of parental care are still likely to be placed in institutions due to a lack of flexible family support services, inclusive education and family-based alternative care settings. Evidence from the ground shows that children with disabilities are the most discriminated against.There is no deinstitutionalisation (DI) strategy for children living in institutions. Deinstitutionalisation in Belgium is considered as an austerity measure, and stable employment of professionals working within institutions is a priority for the state.

On 22th June 2017, 30 key national and EU level stakeholders from the children’s rights, anti-poverty, and disability rights movements in Belgium got together to work on recommendations to the national authorities for deinstitutionalisation reforms in the context of protecting and ensuring children’s rights. During an all-day working seminar, participants shared good practices from Belgium and other European countries on transition from institutional to community- and family-based care, in particular for children under the age of three, children with disabilities and the correlation between deinstitutionalisation and inclusive education.

The event was organised by Eurochild , through the ‘Opening Doors for Europe’s Children’ campaign, in cooperation with the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) and European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD). Its aim was to continue discussions started during the roundtable in January 2017 and to initiate development of a national coalition on alternative care for children in Belgium.

More specifically, experts emphasised that family-based care solutions and community-based services should be primary measures to prevent institutionalisation of children under the age of 3. Residential care, according to participants, should take place only for a short period of time following the UN Guidelines on Alternative Care for Children.

Recommendations for children with disabilities highlighted the importance of awareness raising through training programmes for parents, teachers and children. A concrete action plan on DI in Belgium is also required, experts said.

Current education reform needs to consider individualised child-centred approach focused on best interests and individual needs of the child. There is also an urgent need for diversity of staff to mirror the expanding diversity in Belgian society, according to experts.

Recommendations developed during the seminar will be incorporated in the External Mapping Report.  It will be launched during the national seminar of European Expert Group on DI  in autumn 2017 and  submitted to the national authorities and other relevant decision-making bodies.

  • Find out more about institutional care in Belgium here
  • Read Louisa’s story here