Moving from institutions to community-based care remains one of the biggest challenges facing European societies. To make light of these challenges in Central and Eastern Europe, ESN launched the ‘Managing Change’ training programme in 2011 for sixteen participants from the Visegrád countries. Building on the work of the first two training sessions, ESN’s third meeting with participants, held in London on 29-31 August, took a more practical approach to developing community care.

After presenting ESN’s report on Developing Community Care (available for download in English, français, magyar, polski, český and română in our Publications), participants heard from experts about the use of Structural Funds after 2013, with an emphasis on the fact that the correct use of European funds to develop community-based services rather than on refurbishing and modernising existing institutions. Countries were also asked to deliver a SWOT analysis outlining the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats their country face in the process of dismantling institutional settings and developing community-based care services. Common problems faced by all countries included:

  • The need to tackle the institutional culture of care, which means that attitudes are entrenched and practices are difficult to change
  • Relatively weak family and user movements to advocate for change
  • A lack of public debate and knowledge about why deinstitutionalisation is necessary, especially in the local community
  • Concerns about the cost of transition and that it will be expensive at a time when public authorities are having to do more with less
  • Difficulty with finding enough staff with the right skills

The second day of the training session took place in Woodbine Community Centre for adults with learning disabilities in Redbridge (London). Here participants heard presentations of three case studies:

  1. on closing children’s homes in Georgia
  2. on a demonstration project for the deinstitutionalisation of people with intellectual disabilities in Moldova and
  3. the process of institutional change from the perspective of a social director in Sweden. This was followed by a short presentation on the mobilising the user movement, taking Croatia’s Association for Self-Advocates as an example.

In a question and answer session, participants also discussed the issue of communicating effectively with politicians and civil servants about deinstitutionalisation with members of ESN’s High Level Advisory Committee and Georgian Deputy Minister for Labour, Health and Social Affairs, Irakli Nadareishvili. On the third day, ESN and participants visited the Paralympic Games in London.

Following the third training session, ESN plans to work more closely with the Visegrád countries to support them on an individual basis in the deinstitutionalisation process.