Brussels: Towards a European Pillar of Social Rights (September 2017)
The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL), of which the St. Lazarus Foundation is an active member of, welcomes the recent adoption of the General comment No 5 on Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on living independently and being included in the community. It is a key step forward in clarifying the States parties' obligations under the Convention, with a potential to improve access to independent living.
The General comment on Article 19, adopted by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities during its 18th session on 29 August 2017, explains the normative content of the article, including the key definitions. It sets out the core elements of the right to independent living, followed by a detailed presentation of the States parties' obligations, links with other CRPD articles and steps required to ensure implementation of Article 19.
What makes this General comment especially significant is the fact that Article 19 is "one of the widest ranging and most intersectional articles of the Convention", and is "integral for the implementation of the Convention" as such. ENIL was actively involved in its preparation, having published a report and several submissions to assist the Committee.
As an organisation whose main objective is to promote independent living, ENIL is thankful to the CRPD Committee for listening to our movement. As a result, the General comment on Article 19 clearly explains the concepts of 'independent living', 'personal assistance' and 'deinstitutionalisation', and highlights what cannot be considered as being compliant with Article 19. For example, it states that "neither large-scale institutions with more than a hundred residents nor smaller group homes with five to eight individuals, nor even individual homes can be called independent living arrangements if they have other defining elements of institutions or institutionalization". States parties have an "immediate" obligation, therefore, "to replace any institutionalized settings with independent living support services".
Importantly, States parties are prohibited from using public or private funds to maintain, renovate or build new institutions. On the contrary, they must invest all available resources into developing accessible and affordable housing, providing personal assistance, and making mainstream services and facilities accessible to disabled people. They must take all the necessary measures to enable all disabled people - regardless of their age or any other characteristic - to live independently in the community. In particular, the General comment highlights the urgent need to end institutionalisation of children and groups that are overrepresented in institutional care (such as people with intellectual disabilities and mental health conditions).
The General comment on Article 19 is obligatory reading for all those involved in implementing, monitoring and promoting the Convention - Governments, EU institutions, disabled persons organisations, national human rights institutions, service providers and others. ENIL will focus its efforts on developing and delivering training, and promoting the General comment, to ensure that concrete measures are taken to make independent living a reality for all disabled people.