Europe’s 80 million people with disabilities are at serious risk of poverty, social exclusion and discrimination as a result of their governments’ austerity measures, according to a recent study commissioned by the European Foundation Centre’s European Consortium on Human Rights and Disability. The study reveals how reduced spending on welfare and social services by some Member States is resulting in a disproportionate increase in numbers of people with disabilities losing their jobs, income support and access to fundamental services.

Carried out by a team of European researchers and complemented by national experts in six EU Member States, the study analyses the specific impact – in terms of employment, independent living, education, primary care and assistance – on the rights of people with disabilities. These rights are made explicit within the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which entered into force in 2008 and has been signed by 119 countries to date, including the European Union.

The study clearly shows that the economic crisis, as well as the political and social decisions taken as a result of it, is seriously undermining the fundamental civil, political, social and economic rights of people with disabilities. Now is not the time to move backwards in the field of disabilities, instead we must aspire to do even better. This means collaborating more closely than ever before with one another and looking for creative and alternative avenues, such as social innovation and entrepreneurship.”- Miguel Angel Cabra de Luna, Co-Chair of the European Consortium of Foundations on Human Rights and People with Disabilities

Key findings:

• More than 1 out of 5 persons with disabilities (21.1%) are at risk of poverty in the EU compared to people without disabilities (14.9 %).
• The poverty risk rates sharply increased between 2008 and 2010 in several countries, namely Ireland (+26.16%), Denmark (+21.27%), Lithuania (+21.01%), Spain (+11.35%), Cyprus (+8.11%), Hungary (+6.03%) and Malta (+5.10%).
• The partial or complete closure of social services was reported in Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal and Romania. Mergers and the re-organisation of services were also reported. Services include day care centres, home care services, vocational training, rehabilitation, specialised nurseries and schools.
• There is a growing trend of privatisation or externalisation of public social services in Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal and Romania. The UK has embarked in a similar direction with regard to long-term care. In Ireland, there is a growing trend to outsource social and education services to for-profit providers that pay minimum wages.

The full results of the study will be presented on 6 November at the European Parliament in Brussels. Hosted by MEP Rosa Estaràs Ferragut, the event will bring together policy experts and disability groups to discuss the conclusions of the study and to explore what can be done at European level to address the social exclusion experienced by people with disabilities that has been exacerbated by the crisis.


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