European Parliament approves a largely disability-friendly European Social Fund +

17 January 2019

On Wednesday, the 16 January, the European Parliament adopted its position on the European Social Fund+ (ESF+) post 2020.

The ESF+ is the main fund that the European Union uses to promote social cohesion, improve social fairness and increase competitiveness across Europe. The report just adopted now pertains to the ESF+ Regulation 2021-20217. The decision will cover EU spending in these areas from the year 2021 to 2027. Now that the European Parliament has defined its position on ESF+ post-2020, we are awaiting the same from the Council of the EU, before the Parliament, EU Member States and the Commission meet to negotiate the final form the text will take.

EDF has been engaged in actively advocating for the needs of persons with disability to be fully integrated into the ESF+ Regulation, in line with the EU's and Member States' obligations under the UNCRPD. The outcome has been largely positive, with some of the following positive provisions appearing in the text:

  • Recital 1 states that the twenty principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights should guide the actions under the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) and that all actions under the ESF+ should respect UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to which the European Union and all its Member States are parties. (Amendment 2)
  • Recital 16 states that the ESF+ should, among others, take into consideration the challenges of different disadvantaged groups, facilitating the transition from education to employment, mobility and supporting in particular persons with disabilities (Amendment 26)
  • Recital 18 states that the ESF+ should support Member States’ efforts to eradicate poverty and promote social inclusion by ensuring equal opportunities for all, reducing barriers, fighting discrimination and addressing social and health inequalities. This includes pro-active and reactive policies and strategies targeting the most disadvantaged people, including persons with disabilities. (Amendment 30)
  • Recital 28 states that Member States and the Commission should ensure that ESF+ promotes of the inclusion in society of persons with disabilities on equal basis with others and contributes to the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with regard inter alia to education, work, employment and universal accessibility. (Amendment 52)
  • Article 2 on ‘Definitions’ clarifies that, in the text of the Regulation, ‘disadvantaged groups’ means targeted groups with a high level of people experiencing or at risk of poverty, including persons with disabilities. (Amendment 87)
  • Article 4 on ‘Specific objectives’ states, among others, the need to promote equal access to and completion of, high quality, affordable and inclusive education and training, in particular for disadvantaged groups, particularly addressing early school leaving and promoting apprenticeships, learning mobility for all and accessibility for persons with disabilities. Furthermore it stresses enhancing the equal and timely access to quality, sustainable, accessible and affordable services for persons with disabilities. (Amendment 89)
  • Article 6 on ‘Equality between men and women and equal opportunities, and non-discrimination’ states that all programmes implemented under the ESF+ shall ensure accessibility to persons with disabilities also in terms of ICT, throughout their pre;paration, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, thereby enhancing social inclusion and reducing inequalities. (Amendment 91)
  • Article 8 on ‘Partnership’ states that the programming and delivery of ESF+-funded actions should ensure meaningful participation of social partners, civil society organisations, equality bodies, national human rights institutions and other relevant or representative organisations, and must be inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities. (Amendment 94)
  • Article 23 on ‘Operational objectives’ underlines the objective to provide guidance for the development of social infrastructure (including accessibility requirements for persons with disabilities) needed for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. (Amendment 109)

With regards to deinstitutionalisation, the Parliament’s position on Article 6 refers to the need to use ESF+ to invest in the transition from “institutional care to family and community-based care”. However, it unfortunately removes the reference to the transition from “residential/institutional care”, which would have gone further in avoiding the problem of small group homes that remain institutional in nature.


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