From institutions to community living - Part I: commitments and structures

Discussions are under way at the European Union (EU) and national levels about how best to realise the transition from institutional to community-based support. This report contributes to these by bringing together some of the key issues that have emerged from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights’ (FRA) human rights indicators on Member States’ political and practical commitment to deinstitutionalisation.

All but one of the EU Member States, and the EU itself, have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), committing themselves to achieving independent living for persons with disabilities. Realising this goal requires a meaningful and sustainable shift from institutional to communitybased living arrangements. This, in turn, calls for both deinstitutionalisation strategies and for effectively coordinating the different actors involved in making deinstitutionalisation a reality. However, putting in place political commitments and implementation structures is just one element of the process.

The other two reports in FRA’s three-part series dedicated to this topic look at other important factors: budgeting and financing, and measuring outcomes for persons with disabilities. Taken together, the three reports provide important insights that can support ongoing efforts to make independent living a reality for persons with disabilities.

For additional information, see the summary overview of the different types of institutional and community-based services (pdf, 824 KB) for persons with disabilities available in each of the EU Member States.

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Key findings

  • By ratifying the CRPD, the EU and 27 of its Member States have committed to realising the right of persons with disabilities to live independently and be included in the community, including through deinstitutionalisation. Ireland has signed but not yet ratified the CRPD.
  • The EU has strengthened its role in supporting deinstitutionalisation by requiring that the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) support the transition from institutional to community-based support for persons with disabilities.
  • Most EU Member States have adopted strategies that cover deinstitutionalisation. However, some strategies lack the adequate funding, clear timeframes and benchmarks, and involvement of disabled persons’ organisations required to make them effective.
  • Few EU Member States have expressly committed to not building new institutions or to stopping new admissions into existing institutions.
  • There is wide variety in how EU Member States organise deinstitutionalisation. Responsibility for community-based services rests with national authorities in some Member States, regional authorities in others, and a mixture of regional and national authorities in a final group.
  • Coordinating the different levels and sectors of government involved in deinstitutionalisation presents a major challenge. In particular, relatively few Member States have set up modes of cooperation between the different sectors involved in the process.