Greece launches new Strategy for Deinstitutionalisation

On 30th June, the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD), the Commission Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support (DG Reform), and the Greek Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA) co-organised the final conference of the Technical Support on deinstitutionalisation (DI) process in Greece project. The conference marked the official launch of the Greek Deinstitutionalisation Strategy, Action Plan, and Strategic Roadmap along with other tools for effective DI reform created within the project. Greece is now ready to move forward to ensure full inclusion for children and adults with support needs. 

The project started two years ago, following the submission of a request from Greece for technical support from the European Commission. The scope of the project was directed towards the provision of empowering community-based and person-centred support to children with and without disabilities, adults with disabilities, and older people with support needs. To meet these objectives, DG Reform and EASPD worked alongside the Greek government, experts, and stakeholders, including the three target groups of the reform and their representative organisations. 

The project developed several tools and methodologies, procedures and training, many of which were presented during the conference. “The COVID crisis only underlined the need to support the most vulnerable and provide them with services which facilitate their integration into community and society” said Raluca Painter, Head of Unit for Labour market, Education, Health and Social Services, DG Reform. “DI is not simply about closing institutions, but about transforming the way support is designed and provided. Persons with support needs deserve to live within their communities, amongst their families and friends, and be treated as equals to all fellow citizens,” added Domna Michailidou, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, MoLSA. 

George Stamatis, Secretary General of Social Solidarity and Fight Against Poverty for MoLSA underlined that “It is not the disability, but the ability of a person that matters. It is up to policy makers to create the right framework conditions allowing people to make the most out of their abilities”. Key deliverables include the Greek DI Strategy, Action Plan, and the Strategic Roadmap, which will guide policy reforms.

Empowerment and equality should be at the heart of the DI process and service providers will play a key role in supporting independent living. “There are thousands of persons in the EU that live in institutions or isolated in their own homes because of a lack of services”, emphasised Luk Zelderloo, EASPD Secretary General. 

Vasilis Kalopisis, the local project coordinator, moderated a session about training, which he highlighted as “a key tool to change attitudes towards persons with support needs, by providing in-depth knowledge on their rights and on empowering methodologies to provide support.” The project developed and delivered trainings to the social sector workforce and management, as well as a national training plan for other sectors including education, health and public administrations.  

Communities, families and society must be on board and understand that DI benefits all. Experts presented different tools created throughout the project, including a communication strategy and outreach plan for receiving communities. Audio-visual content presented aims to raise awareness and inform the public on the DI process and provide recommendations to local authorities for a more inclusive society.

Civil society representatives actively participated in the creation of the key project outcomes and discussed the opportunities and challenges raised by DI in Greece. Consultation and co-production with stakeholders and users was crucial in the drafting of key deliverables and will continue to be essential in achieving a successful implementation. As mentioned by Foteini Zafeiropoulou, Member of the Executive Secretariat of the National Confederation of Disabled People (NCDP) of Greece“the voice of persons with support needs matters and that is why it is so important to put the right structures in place to have their voice heard loudly and clearly at European level.”  The next steps will revolve around the implementation of the Strategy and deliverables set forward. Closing remarks reiterated the need to work even further together to convince mainstream stakeholders that inclusion proves positive for society as a whole.





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