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Published on July 8, 2024 News

Social services must be defined directly by law, agreed the Ombudsman's Advisory Body on the Rights of People with Disabilities

At its meeting in June, the Advisory Body on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities called for the Deputy Ombudsman to discuss with the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs key issues related to the transformation of social services. In particular, the need to enshrine the definition of community-based social services directly in law. The legislators could add it, for example, to the currently discussed regulation of the so-called social and health borderline.

"In principle, people with disabilities have the right to live an independent life in the community. Failure to define community-based social service at least in a framework in the law risks fixing the current situation when many people with disabilities are sent to institutions. However, if supported by appropriate services, they could lead a much more independent and dignified life," Deputy Ombudsman Vít Alexander Schorm summarised his concerns at the Advisory Body meeting.

"Everyone should have the opportunity to live on their own terms. And this is not happening in institutions. People there have to adjust to a fixed daily routine. They cannot choose their roommates and often not even how to spend their free time. It is the development of community-based social services that will make it possible for people with disabilities to have a home of their own and maintain links with family, friends or even neighbours. But we have no definition of community-based social services anywhere yet," pointed out Camille Latimier, a member of the Ombudsman's Advisory Body and Director of the Society for the Support of People with Intellectual Disabilities.

As the recent Ombudsman's research has shown, the transformation of institutions - deinstitutionalisation - has slowed down considerably in the Czech Republic in the past few years. Moreover, its speed and form vary from region to region. The research revealed that different interpretations of basic concepts are to blame. "That is why it is crucial that we have a binding definition of community-based social services. Otherwise, there is a risk that the necessary transformation of social services will slow down even more or even stop altogether," the Deputy Ombudsman warned. He recalled that the state had set the obligation to define community-based service as one of the basic goals in the Action Plan for Deinstitutionalization.

The Advisory Body on the Rights of People with Disabilities also took a stand for this on its meeting. In his resolution, it expressed the wish that the Deputy Ombudsman should raise the issue with the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs in order to follow up on the joint memorandum with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs from autumn 2023. In the memorandum, the Ministry, the Ombudsman and other institutions and organisations agreed to support the process of deinstitutionalisation in the Czech Republic.

The definition of community-based social services is directly related to a set of laws currently being discussed by the Chamber of Deputies. These are mainly the Social Services Act and the regulation of the so-called social and health border.

The development of community-type services, including ambulatory services, outreach services and personal assistance, is essential to enabling people with disabilities to lead independent lives outside institutions and to participate fully in society. The Czech Republic is committed to such a change in the social services system under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

What is…

deinstitutionalisation: the process of transforming institutional care for people with disabilities into community-based care. The aim is to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and enable them to live a life comparable to that of their peers. It includes the controlled closure of institutions and the development of community-based social services. The latter are primarily focused on the needs of their clientnd on their social inclusion.

… community-based social services: it is aimed at solving adverse social situations in a natural environment and does not exclude its users from society. It can be ambulatory, outreach or residential. Community-based social services are not concentrated in one place. Ambulatory and residential services have a maximum number of clients. They support clients in establishing and maintaining social relationships and roles. They develop and support their skills.

Source: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Criteria for community-based social services and criteria for transformation and deinstitutionalisation. Definitions are abbreviated and simplified for the purposes of this press release.


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