What are the key factors fostering the social inclusion of young people with disabilities? And how can we ensure equal access to quality support services for these young people?
Some of the questions we spoke about with colleagues from other EU-states (government representatives, researchers and the young people themselves). During this peer review in Zagreb we discussed how existing mainstream, as well as specialized services, can be adapted and improved to better support young people and their families and how policy-makers, health professionals, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), service providers and other relevant stakeholders can work together to improve access to and quality of these services. We analyzed key elements of existing successful strategies and policies aimed at fostering social inclusion of young people with disabilities.
The event was hosted by the Croatian Centre of Public Health, and facilitated by the Mutual Learning Services team of the EU DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion. At the request of the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs & Employment I prepared a commenting paper in response to the discussion paper from host country Croatia. In this paper I describe various aspects of Dutch policy in recent years, and I make a comparison with Croatian policy. Then I discuss (the vision on) the key elements of approaches in both countries, as well as the 'transferability' of them.
Some of the main themes we discussed during the the peer review:
- A change of paradigm: comprehensive strategies based on human rights, personal capacities and empowerment, rather than the medical approach and a focus on individual impairments.
- Strong legal enforcement and political commitment is of utmost importance to ensure that such a systemic change is implemented consistently in all the relevant areas.
- Training and awareness raising towards politicians, service providers, employers, civil society is necessary to support the paradigm shift.
- Active involvement of (young) persons with disabilities and their representative organisations in all the phases of the policy cycle is necessary.
- When designing a policy or strategy, the provisions for structured data collection, ongoing monitoring and evaluation systems should be laid out from the outset.
- Person-centred and individualized service provision supported by case managers accompanying the person in a life cycle perspective.
- Attention to design of benefits for young people with disabilities and family carers in order to avoid perverse effects (e.g. remaining in education longer or not accepting jobs due to the risk of losing certain benefits, parents declaring worse disability conditions to get higher benefits as carers to make up for loss or lack of other vital income, etc.)
I really enjoyed and appreciated discussing these and other issues with colleagues from other EU-countries. It made me more aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the Dutch approach. So, I left Zagreb with some homework. Some of it I will share with you the following weeks.
You will find the summary report, together with the other papers, on the website of the EU DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion.