Joint activties of the Republic Centre – PORAKA and EASPDRegional Forum: Towards community-based living in Western Balkan and Eastern Partnership countries – challenges & opportunities
Social care systems of non-EU Member States face enormous needs of reform, being still based on medicalized approach that does not fully recognize the need for support of vulnerable individuals and does not allow for the full enjoyment of human rights as stipulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Consequently, many essential services are not mainstreamed and are only made available by civil society organisations who fill in this vacuum running their operations under unsustainable financial conditions. At the same time, the instability of governments often leads to changing priorities, hampering therefore sustainability and long-term vision and planning.
Therefore, on the 17th September, the Republic Centre for Support of Persons with Intellectual Disability – PORAKA and the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) hosted the first Regional Provider Forum for service providers for persons with disabilities. Bringing together over 90 participants online, the forum addressed the key challenges and trends of service provision in non-EU countries from the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership regions. Speakers came together to explore how the EU could work with these regions to strengthen their cooperation, while promoting the provision of sustainable, community-based support services for persons with disabilities.
In the first part of the webinar, representatives of EASPD member organisations from Albania, Armenia, Georgia, Kosovo, Moldova, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey, who work to deliver support and social care services to persons with disabilities across the life cycle presented the current situation in their countries related to the service provision sector. This session was led by Vasilka Dimoska MD, Secretary General of the Republic Centre – PORAKA. Vlado Krstovski, Program manager of the Republic centre – PORAKA, presented the situation in our country.
At the second part of the webinar the participants were joined by a representative of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiation (DG NEAR). The webinar highlighted common trends that are present across these regions and provided the chance to learn about EU funding opportunities available to support social services. EASPD welcomed the willingness of DG NEAR to explore further cooperation with social services in the region and develop support mechanisms to build the capacity of the sector, helping them to unlock more of these opportunities.
During the webinar EASPD launched its latest report “Disability Support Services in Non-EU Countries: Needs and Trends” which provides a state-of-play of the support service sector in Albania, Armenia, Moldova, North Macedonia, and Turkey. The report also proposes a number of key recommendations at a national and EU level, to promote the delivery of human-rights based support and care services for persons with disabilities and contribute to the full implementation of the UN CRPD in these regions.
The development and provision of community-based and person-centred support and social care services for persons with disabilities is a priority in many of these countries. While crucial progress has been made, the higher levels of institutionalisation of children and adults with disabilities remains a key challenge. Access to services in rural areas was also identified as another key issue, with families often having to travel to urban centres to receive the support that they need.
Moving forward, the report calls for the development and implementation of comprehensive and coherent legal frameworks, that can facilitate the provision of high-quality services at various stages of a person’s life. These frameworks must be supported by sustainable funding opportunities, to ensure the continued delivery of essential support to those who need it. Looking to how the EU can work with these regions, to promote EU values, enhance social cohesion and encourage sustainable development, the report provides a number of key recommendations. These include:
- Ensuring that the future European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) and Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) funds are used to promote deinstitutionalisation and mainstream social inclusion of persons with disabilities.
- Utilising political dialogue to promote the of implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and UN CRPD in national actions.
- Recognising civil society organisations as key partners in ensuring successful reform in line with EU values, policies and interests and strengthening the capacity of these organisations to be able to maximise their potential.
In closing the Forum, Luk Zelderloo, Secretary General of EASPD again stressed the importance of cooperation, both within the region and with the EU, underlining that: “this event has shown that many of the challenges that support services in these regions face are the same challenges being faced across Europe. This commonality is a catalyst for greater change.” In concluding he reaffirmed EASPD’s commitment to continuing to work with its members, alongside all other actors, to ensure the provision of community-based, person-centred support and social care services to persons with disabilities in non-EU countries.