“Dignity + Independent living = DI (Deinstitutionalisation)”: Conference Highlights


On 12 and 13 October 2017, the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union hosted a Conference “Dignity + Independent Living = DI” which took place in Tallinn, Estonia. International Partners and National Coordinators of the Opening Doors Campaign participated in this Conference in order to bring practices and policies related to the alternative care of children across Europe.

The conference brought together European and national organisations from all groups at risk of being placed in institutional care. The event was also supported by the European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community based Care where our campaign holds membership through a leading partner, Eurochild.

Ahead of the Conference, the Opening Doors campaign prepared a Position Paper calling on the EU to ensure that children’s rights are at the centre of EU policies and that the EU funds in the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) are used in children’s best interests. The EU has played a pivotal role in the last years towards the end of institutional care. However, during conference discussions, speakers reported that the EU Member States still use EU Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) to build, renovate or expand institutions for vulnerable groups of people. Structural Funds are not used for the inclusion of children and vulnerable groups of people in the society but, instead, for their segregation. Importantly, ESIF has not been used on the national level, and according to Ms Andriana Sukova–Tosheva from DG EMPL of European Commission, countries have used only 5% of the allocated funds. This is a crucial moment and Member States should make sure that funds are being used in line with DI Strategies and Action plans that do not focus on the closure of institutions or the development of smaller facilities but on the strengthening of child protection systems instead.

“Miniaturisation” is not progressive realisation of human rights. It is an expensive wasted opportunity”, concluded Jan Jařab, Regional Representative for Europe Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The funds that were saved from the closure of the institutions should be redirected to the new type services and not to other policies.

In its position paper to the European Union, the Opening Doors for Europes’ Children Campaign urges the EU that the regulations in place for the ESIF are being extended to more funds used for the protection of children and that the ex-ante conditionality 9.1 is extended to all EU member states and not to only the 12 identified ones. This request, among others, is seconded by the EEG reflection paper on the EU finances which has functioned as a background document during the Conference. Furthermore, the ex-ante conditionalities should not be a one-off process, says the paper, and should be monitored during the entire cycle. In addition, campaign demands improved implementation of the European Code of Conduct on Partnership and, as Jana Hainsworth mentioned in her speech during the conference panel, “it is not a box-ticking exercise”.

Civil society organisations, as well as service users, should be consulted in a meaningful and transparent way, a practice that is not taking place at the moment in many Member States.

According to Jan Jařab’s final remarks, the recently adopted article 19 on Independent Living and Inclusion in the Community of the UNCRPD serves as guidance for policies across all categories of stakeholders, for children to older people. When it comes to children, the UN Guidelines on the Alternative Care for Children should also provide guidance to countries DI reforms.

“We need personalized support services allowing the users to be empowered, to exercise their self-determination and their role as social beings”, Jan Jarab concluded.

Further reading:

FRA published three reports on Article 19 of the CRPD. The ‘From institutions to community living’ reports explore different aspects of the move away from institutions towards independent and community living. They focus on three aspects of the deinstitutionalisation process: