Persons institutionalised in another country far from their family and community. Families waiting for more than 15 years for appropriate housing. Lack of access to health care. These breaches of international and European conventions are denounced in a collective complaint against France lodged to the Council of Europe by the European Disability Forum and Inclusion Europe, with support of 5 French advocacy organisations (APF France Handicap, CLAPEAHA, FNATH, Unafam, Unapei).
The complaint against France was made by the two European associations in an effort to uphold the human rights of persons with disabilities. The complaint asserts that France is breaching the legal obligations it committed to in the European Social Charter and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The collective complaint addresses failures by the French state, such as:
Lack of equal and effective access to social support services
Not only are many persons with disabilities not able to access support services, but France is effectively using the freedom of movement to exile people. Today France is not providing the right for all persons with disabilities to live with their families and in their communities: in December 2015, 5385 adults and 1451 children were placed in social services and institutions in Belgium (Rapport d’information fait au nom de la commission des affaires sociales sur la prise en charge des personnes handicapées en dehors du territoire français, page 20. In some cases, more than 200 kilometres away from their families.
Lack of equal and effective access to healthcare
There is a lack of coordination between social and health services, and certain healthcare services are not accessible. This means that some persons are not able to access essential health services.
Lack of equal and effective access to housing
The lack of accessible and adequate housing prevents persons with disabilities from accessing housing. It creates long waiting lists: sometimes more than 15 years.
Lack of essential support to independent living
Adequate support and personal assistance solutions for people with disabilities are often missing. This makes it impossible for them to work, live and participate independently in society.
Failure in its duty to protect families
Lack of support for persons with disabilities is affecting family members, as they need to be in charge of the support themselves, with consequences on their health and well-being. Other families see their loved ones placed in institutions far away from their homes (Notably in Belgium, in some cases more than 200 km away from home.)
Failure in its duty to protect work-life balance
Lack of support for persons with disabilities is affecting family members, as they need to be in charge of the support themselves. When families are obliged to support their relatives with disabilities, this can lead to lack of job security as, in some cases, family members need to reduce their working hours or to stop working.
These failures to uphold the rights of persons with disabilities and their families often put them in a very difficult position. The situation is all the more worrying as the bilateral agreements between Belgium and France highlight how freedom of movement can be used to undermine the rights of persons with disabilities to live independently in the community. They are exiled in a different country, away from their families, without it being a choice. France is also violating the commitments it took when joining the European Social Charter and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).
Inclusion Europe and the European Disability Forum agreed to lodge the complaint considering that a successful complaint could set a precedent for the cases of other European countries that are also in breach of the European Social Charter and the UN CRPD. Persons with disabilities in France and elsewhere in Europe are still waiting for their rights enshrined in these treaties to become a reality.
Yannis Vardakastanis, President of EDF says “France is not respecting the basic human rights of persons with disabilities, which is unacceptable. It is especially concerning to see how France is effectively exiling people. Countries have to do better and uphold the human rights of all persons with disabilities, and we will use all the tools at our disposal to ensure they do so.”
Maureen Piggot, President of Inclusion Europe, comments: “A high number of those bearing the consequences of the inaction of the French state are people with intellectual disabilities and their families. People with intellectual disabilities have the same right as others to live a healthy, independent, dignified life. When the state fails to provide appropriate support, the disabled person suffers and the whole family pays the price as parents and siblings step in to fill the gaps. France and other European countries should fulfil their obligations, and we will continue to take action if they don’t.”
Albert Prévos, Executive Committee Member of the European Disability Forum stated: “The lack of support from the French government for the implementation of the requirements of the UN Convention, particularly as regards the exercise of legal capacity on an equal basis with others, has a very negative impact in the lives of persons with disabilities. It’s not only about breaching treaties and conventions, it is about respecting our human rights.”