The European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG) calls on EU leaders to ensure its response to COVID-19 takes into consideration persons living in institutions in Europe as they face increased risks of abuse, neglect, health issues and mental distress. Adequate funding to social and care sector is needed, as well as support to families and carers. This can prevent an increase in institutionalisation and a worsening of the conditions of those who are living in residential segregating settings.
“The current crisis also intensifies the problems of institutionalisation: the health risks are enhanced by the concentration of people, and countless are dying in institutions, isolated from their family members. Children, older people, persons experiencing homelessness, persons with disabilities and mental health problems who are segregated in short-term and long-term residential institutions are now more vulnerable to human rights violations than ever and face increased risks of:
- Infection: overcrowding and sometimes unhygienic conditions, lack of personal protective equipment for residents and staff, and communal life typical of institutions mean that those inside are much more prone to becoming infected;
- Abuse, neglect, lack of care, and forced placement: there are potential staff shortages, and the isolation and ban on visits aimed at protecting the residents, hinders the supervision by families or support networks and there is also the increased risk of trafficking and exploitation;
- Forced medication and forced restraint measures: under the pretence of preventive measures, existing safeguards may be circumvented;
- Mental distress: preventive measures, isolation, lack of clear information, forced confinement leading to a lack of contact with the outside world, albeit necessary, impact severely on mental health of persons living in institutions;
- Denial of medical treatment, risk of severe and possibly lethal forms of the illness: many persons living in institutions have underlying health conditions with higher risk of health complications; in countries where health services are prioritising the provision of ventilators on the basis of a patient’s expected lifespan, they can be forced to forego life-saving appliances
- Immediate and underprepared changes to care placements: residents risk being immediately moved to different placements with little preparation, monitoring and support, which can leave them in a more vulnerable position.”
Read the full EEG statement here.