Civil Society Reflects on Deinstitutionalisation Progress Over the Past 10 Years

The Opening Doors Pan-European De-institutionalisation campaign came to an end after seven years of dedicated and passionate work. 

International partners and national coordinators reflect on the achievements of the Opening Doors campaign.

Last week, Eurochild was involved in organising two important events on deinstitutionalisation in Brussels. The Opening Doors Pan-European De-Institutionalisation Campaign came to an end after 7 years (2013-2019) of dedicated and passionate work, and marked a good occasion to celebrate its achievements. The closing event took place on 15 January in the European Commission. The day  after (16 January), a high-level conference titled Towards Inclusion 2020 marked the 10 years that have passed since the release of the Špidla report (the Report of the Ad-hoc Expert Group on the transition from institutional to community-based care).

Both events provided a summary of what has been achieved regarding the transition from institutional to family- and community-based care across the Member States, what is the current state of play, and what remains to be done. They also brought very powerful testimonies from people who lived in institutions, such as care leavers, people with disabilities, and homeless people. The European Commission was acknowledged as a champion in promoting deinstitutionalisation by the introduction of policies and the allocation of substantial funding. Despite the efforts made, there are still 1 million people living in institutions and between 345,000 - 360,000 children. The work is not finished. As Katarina Ivankovic Knezevic, Director for Social Affairs, DG Employment, European Commission pointed out: ‘we need to continue even if there is one child left in institution’.  

Both events noted a series of recommendations to end institutionalisation permanently. There is a need for a more strategic approach of the use of the EU funds as well as support and development for preventative services. Member States should take more ownership and responsibility in delivering both policies and funding. Marie - Anne Paraskevas, Senior Policy Officer, European Commission said: ‘Progress in deinstitutionalization is uneven across the EU. There is a lack of political commitment in many member states, and this has an impact on the level of sustainability of financing.’

There is also the lack of recent quantitative data on people in institutions including children that is one of the major obstacle towards implementation of national DI strategies. . Most significantly, we need to work together national authorities, EU institutions, civil society and all with lived experience of institutionalisation. 

More information about the Towards Inclusion 2020 Conference, including speakers, can be found here.  

Eurochild will continue to prioritise deinstitutionalisation in 2020 by: 

• Mapping data collection systems on child protection across the 27 EU Member States

• Build capacity of civil society to be able to leverage EU policy and funding as well as to promote family based care

• Ensure supportive EU budget 2021-2027 including ESF plus new provision childguarantee recognises children in alternative care

• Continuation of EU – national level advocacy

• Engaging and strengthen care leavers associations and networks in the work 

‘We are committed to continuing that work together in a collaborative way.’ We need powerful advocacy, we need the voices of young children who are in care and have left care, the voices of families who have been separated… these are part of the solution of ending institutional care.’ said Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General, Eurochild. 

The Opening Doors campaign can look back at many achievements. Many campaign countries, such as Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine, are increasingly prioritising child protection and deinstitutionalisation. It is particularly encouraging to observe the number of children living in family-based foster care slowly exceeding the number of children living in institutions.

On a European level, the European Semester Process now analyses deinstitutionalisation in a more comprehensive way. All EU campaign countries country Reports prioritise the transition from institutional to family and community-based care or inclusive education for the 2021-27 programming period. The new EU budget 2021-2027, prioritises the transition from institutional to family-and community-based care, promote social inclusion, and strive to improve policy coherence and protection of children’s rights, especially those at risk or in care.

But the work is not over. Much more needs to be done to ensure that no child grows up in an institution, to prevent separation of children from their families for reasons of poverty, disability or other discriminatory practices, and to build strong child protection systems to ensure children are not harmed. 

Click here to receive updates on Deinstitutionalisation and other policy areas in which we work.

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