Sweden and Norway are the only countries in the world that have closed most of the institutions for people with peculiarities of intellectual development. In many ways, this result was achieved thanks to the practice of attracting personal assistants. What is this method and is it applicable in Belarus?
- In different cities of Europe, including Sweden, Norway and Belgium, there is a law that says: a person with peculiarities of intellectual development can have a personal assistant, - says Frank Sioen, a specialist in communication and advocacy of the European Network for Independent Living (ENIL). - In this case, people themselves choose what to do independently, and what functions to assign to a personal assistant.
Personal assistants are employees who are hired by people with disabilities to accompany them in a variety of situations and to provide the necessary assistance. In this case, the employers themselves determine the hours of work of the personal assistant and his duties. Unlike social workers who help people with disabilities in institutions, personal assistants can not decide on their own how to help people with disabilities.
"The most important thing is to give a person a choice," explains Frank Sioen. "And people who live in institutions do not have any choice."
Such a practice, according to the expert, will always be better for society, since a person who lives in his own apartment or house has the opportunity to study, work and participate in cultural and social life. A person reveals his potential, becomes more active, and therefore, brings benefits to society.
The topic of personal assistants originated in California in the 60s of last century. In Europe, this practice has begun only about 20 years ago in Sweden. Today, any person with a disability in this country can have a personal assistant. Persons with disabilities choose who to hire as an assistant by themselves:
"It can be a family member, but, as a rule, they are outsiders," says a specialist from the ENIL. – The most important thing is that these are people whom a person with disability considers to be the best for him and sees as his assistant.
According to Frank Sioen, such experience can be applied in any country. Where to take money from? Just to redistribute the money from the maintenance of institutions to support personal assistants. Thus, the state also receives economic benefits, as the round-the-clock support of people in institutions costs much more than accompanying people with disabilities at home when needed. However, the main value of the practice of personal assistants is not economic, the expert is convinced.
"We need to understand that the most important plus is a change in the quality of life of people with mental peculiarities," says Frank Sioen. - People become free, and it is important to pay attention not only to the economy, but also to human rights.
This practice can also be quickly adopted, since no special education is required to become a personal assistant. Of course, people can finish some courses, but they do not have to do this, since there is no a universal training program anyway. Each person with a disability has his own needs and peculiarities that can not be fully taken into account in any training program.
It is also interesting that in Sweden and Norway personal assistants became popular after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Belarus ratified in October last year. The Convention states that every person has the right to choose where and with whom to live. No one is required to move to an institution to simply survive.
The activities are carried out by the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as a part of the information campaign "Deinstitutionalization as an opportunity to promote human rights for people with disabilities with intellectual and/or mental disabilities in Belarus". The campaign works in support of the regional project of the Lithuanian organization Mental Health Outlook and ENIL (Brussels) with the financial support of the European Union ("Realizing the rights and opportunities of civil society in an effort to encourage the social inclusion of people with intellectual and/or mental disorders and their participation In decision-making processes in six regions ")