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The Academic Network of European Disability Experts (ANED)

Independent living - Frameworks, policies and practice in 26 European countries

Key findings were presented from the draft synthesis report on independent living (published beginning of 2010) prepared by Dr. Ruth Townsley and Prof. Linda Ward:

Powerpoint (pdf 219 kB) Handout (pdf 122 kB)

The report reviewed national frameworks, policies and practices around independent living in 26 European countries,  based on information prepared by ANED members.

The majority of states have clear policy statements supporting independent living; but some do not, with continued reliance on institutional care and family carers. Few countries match their strategic commitment to independent living at the local level.

Where institutions continue to exist, reliance on these is diminishing. However, the interpretation of data is complex, and practices may continue to be institutional.

A number of factors were identified as restricting progress towards independent living, including perceived expense, insufficient community support, concerns from carers and the lack of specific safeguards to prevent institutionalisation. Some groups were identified as particularly likely to be excluded i.e. people with intellectual disabilities

Suggestions were made for actions to stimulate further progress across Europe: developing pilot strategies to increase the mobility of disabled people - within and between countries, sharing good practice and reaching a common understanding of what constitutes independent living. A greater use should be made of European funding to support initiatives which foster independent living, including personal assistance schemes. Actions to maximise the involvement of disabled people's organisations in the planning, delivery and monitoring of independent living should be a priority.

John Evans (the European Network on Independent Living) welcomed the ANED findings. He expressed concern about the continuation of, and in some instances increase in, institutionalized care. This is a particular problem in Central and Eastern Europe, where there is continuing investment in renovating institutions.

The central importance of personal assistance provision was emphasized.   There was a variety of approaches in different countries and collecting models of good practice would be valuable. The provision of equipment to aid independent living continues to be problematic in most countries, with a lack of choice and complex systems. The issue of the portability of support packages within and across countries needs urgent action.