We demand strong action to reduce poverty of persons with disabilities in EU

Under embargo 3 December 6AM

Statement for International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Luminita, from Romania, was denied education and, when working, had her wages withheld. Sven, from Sweden, lives in fear of losing his assistance and having to live in a residential institution. Maria Chiara’s family, in Italy, and Joncour’s family, in France, live in a precarious condition because the state does not pay for their personal assistance. Matthieu was expelled from the UK to his native France because he was perceived as a “undue burden”.

These examples show how EU countries have largely failed at reducing poverty of persons with disabilities: 28.7% of the persons with disabilities living in the EU, more than 1 in 4, are poor or at risk of poverty.

The situation has actually gotten worse since 2010 in 11 countries: Estonia, Luxembourg, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Czechia, Lithuania, Italy, Netherlands, Malta and Spain.

Map of percentage of persons with disabilities at risk of poverty and social exclusion by Member State coulours in yellow for countries with less 25% risk (Slovakia 18.4%, Czechia 23.8%, France 21%, Austria 21.7%, Netherlands 22.7%, Finland 22.5%, Denmark 23.5%, Slovenia 24%); 	Orange for countries with 25%-35% risk (Luxembourg 28.8%; Poland 29.5%, Hungary 27.4%, Portugal 28.7 %, Italy 30%, Spain 31.1%, UK 32.2%, Sweden 30.1%, Malta 30%, Germany 31.2%, Belgium 30.5%, Cyprus 34.1%, Greece 32.3%; Red for countries with >35% (Romania 37.6%, Croatia 37.1%, Ireland 38.1% Latvia 43.6%, Lithuania 43% , Estonia 41.7%, Bulgaria 49.4%



In all EU countries, persons with disabilities are more likely to be poor and more likely to be unemployed than persons without disabilities. Not only are persons with disabilities poorer, but they also face extra costs from living in a society that is not adapted to them: costs estimated at 23,012 euros/year in Sweden or 14,550 euros/year in Belgium, for example.

Map with increased risk of poverty and social exclusion for persons with disabilities in percentage points by Member State”  Coloured Yellow for countries with <5 percentage points increase (Greece 1 percentage points, Italy 4.5 percentage points, Slovakia 4.9 percentage points); Orange for countries with 5-15 percentage points, darker colour: Spain 7 percentage points, Netherlands 8.5 percentage points, Romania 8.4 percentage points, France 6.7 percentage points, Luxembourg 9.9 percentage points, Austria 7.6 percentage points, Finland 9.1 percentage points, Denmark 7.9 percentage points, Poland 12.9 percentage points, Slovenia 11.1 percentage points, Portugal 10.6 percentage points, Hungary 12.4 percentage points, Cyprus 13.7 percentage points, Czechia 13.5 percentage points, Malta 13.2 percentage points, Sweden 14.7 percentage points; Red for >15 percentage points (UK 15.3 percentage points, Bulgaria 19.5 percentage points, Croatia 17.9 percentage points, Germany 15.1 percentage points, Belgium 15.2 percentage points, Ireland 19.1 percentage points, Estonia 22.5 percentage points, Lithuania 20.5 percentage points , Latvia 22.4 percentage points

The situation is even worse if they live in rural areas, are woman, young, belong to ethnic minorities and/or other discriminated groups.

These are just some of the many findings from our upcoming European Human Rights report. Overall, our report shows that EU countries have failed in ensuring proper protection and support of persons with disabilities, especially in the wake of the financial crisis.

This is why today, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we call on the European Union and national and local authorities for stronger measures to fight the poverty of persons with disabilities, including:

  • Fixing disability assessment:  all EU countries should follow an approach that looks at a combination of impairment, functional, social and environmental considerations. The recognition of disability should be harmonised and recognised throughout the EU, so persons with disabilities don’t have to submit to assessments each time they move countries.
  • Stopping the “benefits trap”: Do not try to push persons with disability into employment by reducing disability allowance. Ensure disability benefits provide a stable, liveable income. Ensure benefits account for the extra costs persons with disabilities incur. Ensure benefits are not cut nor stopped when a person with disabilities starts work.
  • Investing in accessibility, support structures and services: Ensure housing-first solutions that allow people with disabilities to live in the community. Invest EU and national funds in the accessibility of mainstream services to minimise disability-related costs. Invest in support services including housing and living support systems, health and mental health support systems and support to employment.

We call on the EU and its Member States to honour their commitments to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to ensure that all persons with disabilities are able to live with dignity in the community, with equal access and equal rights.

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