[European Union] Deinstitutionalisation is a European Priority

07 Feb 2020
Know-How Centre for the Alternative Care for Children

A European Expert Group (EEG) conference on the transition from institutional to community-based care was held in Brussels on 16 January 2020, to evaluate the progress made in the deinstitutionalisation process in a European context. During the conference, problems currently experienced in Member States and proposed future developments were discussed.


Deinstitutionalisation is a European priority and a field of systemic funding. At the same time, there are Member States in which the closure of homes is not only not done, but the number of people housed is increasing. Such is the case in Belgium, where the number of institutionalised children is increasing. In other countries, such as Bulgaria, for example, the number of adults in residential care has not changed, but the number of children in institutions has decreased dramatically.

There are many more challenges ahead. Much of the deinstitutionalization effort has been directed towards restructuring homes that are still institutional. We need a full and strategic use of European funds. More resources should be directed towards prevention services: even if we want to close institutions, the only way to effectively end institutional care is to, as a start, ensure that children are not separated from their families.

We have to work together. Our campaign shows that when we join forces - 16 international and national organizations - we can achieve results. - Radostina Paneva, Programme Advisor, SOS Children's Villages


The conference noted that institutionalisation is a complex problem, the reasons being the inability of European policies and practices implemented so far to cope with poverty, violence, disability and homelessness. The dominant ‘medical model’, which diagnoses but does not cure social problems, has been cited as an important factor in isolating large groups of people: people with disabilities, victims of violence and poverty. Replacing this model with a social one, in which the inclusion of every person, regardless of the difficulties they face, as a fundamental right and goal of our societies, is an important task. Finland was cited as an example of the implementation of the social model. There, social assistance started by ensuring housing — because a safe home is the beginning of solving all other problems.

Progress in deinstitutionalization is uneven across the EU. Many Member States lack political commitment and this has an impact on the degree of sustainability of funding. - Marie-Anne Paraskevas, European Commission

We must continue to work together, helping each other. We need strong advocacy, we need the voices of young children who are currently in social care or who have left social care, the voices of families who have been separated… they are part of the decision to end institutional care. - Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General, Eurochild


Human rights organizations have raised questions about how well deinstitutionalisation guarantees people's rights. These debates are important and must continue. They keep the attention of professionals, politicians and citizens on the topic of independent living and our ability to make our own decisions about how we contribute to the lives of others, as well as what resources we have to realize our goals.

You can download a report on the transition from institutional to community-based care in the 27 EU Member States HERE.

The event program is available HERE.


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