Since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency, there have been several cases of national laws being incompatible with the rights of people with intellectual disabilities. Therefore, Inclusion Europe submitted a petition to defend their rights as well as those of their families.
The situations we saw during the coronavirus lockdown in some European countries put rights of people with intellectual disabilities at risk. We noticed shocking proposals for rules to deny people with disabilities health care; and there were case when this actually happened. The access to support and care they had on a day-to-day basis is not guaranteed anymore. Most of children with intellectual disabilities are not able to continue their learning because schools cannot communicate with them, and families are left on their own to deal with everything from feeding to education. People in care homes or institutions were being locked down without the permission to see their families or friends, even virtually.
People with disabilities are also among those living in nursing homes; and these facilities saw very large numbers of people infected and dying from the virus.
There have been cases of wide-ranging infections in institutions for people with disabilities too. In some cases, people with disabilities who had the virus were released from hospital without treatment and placed back into the institutions where the virus could easily spread to others.
The European Union ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). It also recognised in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union the right of persons with disabilities to benefit from measures designed to ensure their independence, social and occupational integration and participation in the life of the community. However, these rights are not fully taking into account during this epidemic and sanitary crisis.
Therefore, Inclusion Europe submitted a petition to draw the attention of the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament to several cases of national laws being incompatible with either the UN CRPD or the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. We call for measures that protect people with intellectual disabilities during and after the coronavirus emergency.
What measures the European Union could take to protect people with intellectual disabilities?
As for the immediate health response, it is essential to ensure that it is compatible to both the EU Charter and the CRPD, bearing in mind that all lives are equal and no third person can be deemed able to judge whether or not a person’s life is worth or not.
It is crucial that national and European authorities ensure the billions of euros of post-corona economic injection are targeted first and foremost at people with disabilities and other “vulnerable” groups. What is needed is post-Corona financial measures not only reaching out but starting with people with intellectual disabilities and their families.
The petition was heard by the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament on 19 May 2020. It was well-received by all MEPs; 7 out of 8 MEPs declaring their support to keep the petition open.
Ádám Kósa (MEP, European People’s Party Group)
“I do agree with petition. It is important that people with intellectual disabilities are treated with respect.”
Alexander Matthew Agius Saliba (MEP, Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats)
“I believe that we are entering a new phrase of COVID-19. Mental health problems need to be addressed as soon as possible; at a national level, but it is also important to have a strategy at European level, with a special regard to people with intellectual disabilities.“
Yana Toom (MEP, Renew Europe Group)
“Triage is discriminative by definition. So, our goal is to avoid the situation where we have to use it.”
“Just because Member States have ratified the UNCPRD doesn’t mean that they implement it fully.”
Loránt Vincze (MEP, European People’s Party Group)
“This pandemic has highlighted that social and health systems don’t know what procedures we should take with such persons. These persons where completely isolated and there was a very high mortality rate among them.”
“It is also important that the European Parliament plays a stronger role. We need a resolution in the plenary.”
Ulrike Muller (MEP, Renew Europe Group)
“We very much support this petition. We have to create a framework so people with disabilities can return to their daily lives and society.”
“As Europe we have to ensure that Member States are really implementing the UN CRPD and we have to ensure people with disabilities have more equal participation in society. So, we need support funding for the families and Europe needs to ensure people with disabilities aren’t left behind.”
Monica Semedo (MEP, Renew Europe Group)
“I am glad to support this petition as crisis situations always hit the vulnerable the hardest.”
“Safety and access to appropriate healthcare should be guaranteed to everyone including people with disabilities.”
“You can be sure that I will take your concerns into the negotiations for a new and stronger European Social Fund+.”
Link to the petition: here
Link to the video of the hearing: here
Link to our statement to the PETI Committee: here
Inclusion Europe’s material about the COVID-19
For more information about the situation in European countries, watch recordings or read the minutes of Inclusion Europe’s online meetings about the Coronavirus emergency.
For the information about the impact of Coronavirus on the education of children with intellectual disabilities read in Inclusion Europe’s briefing Impact on education for children with intellectual disabilities.
Download the petition and statement in various languages: