Do we need a revolution for the rights of institutionalized persons with mental disabilities to be respected?

3.12.2015

Today, December 3rd 2015, Romania should celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, as it was proclaimed by the United Nations in 1992. But the information gathered through monitoring visits and presented by the media reveal that the 25,000 people with mental disabilities living residential centers will not be celebrating happily.

Just try and knock on any door of the 700 centers and ask the people kept inside what their wishes are. You will be asked for special approvals from the President of the County Council and from the Director of the General Directorate of Social Care and Child Protection (DGASPC) that should have been asked for at least 30 days before. Some may grant you access, but rather not. For instance, last week, one of the Center for Legal Resources’ team was forbidden to enter a such a center from Vâlcea County, despite having a legal protocol signed by the Ministry of Labor, based on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The visit was unannounced and aimed to verify the way beneficiaries had been moved away from the center in Băbeni. In the spring of 2015, the media published photos of a child tied to the bed and reported of several other children complaining about the abuses they were suffering there.

The child in those photos was just one of the 7,000 children with mental disabilities who live in social care centers. At a monthly medium cost of 3,000 Lei (670 Euros) per institutionalized child, the state offers:

  • Minimum 12 hours a day in a special school, thus sacrificing thier right to learn basic skills that would help them live an independent life;
  • Keepers, social care assistants, psychologists, doctors, engineers, lawyers suddenly turned into social care experts, who do not seem to know these children’s needs and desires;
  • Soap, toilet paper and shampoo, but only if and when the keeper wants;
  • Toilets without doors and shower cabins without curtains;
  • Beatings and raping, without anyone to hear their call for help;
  • No means whatsoever for the children to complain, as their legal guardian is regularly the DGASPC Director, a bureaucrat that has never seen the children.

All the children the Center for Legal Resources has met want a family or a foster parent. If the state granted them this right, it would pay a monthly allowance of 1,000 Lei (approx. 220 Euros) and another 1,050 Lei (approx. 230 Euros) for the monthly wage of a foster parent, for every child. This would add up to a total of 2,000 Lei/month (approx. 450 Euro) so that a child with mental disabilities could live in the community. But now the state pays 21 million Lei/month (4.7 million Euros) for all the 7,000 children to live in isolation and loneliness. With less than 14 million Lei/month (approx. 3.1 million Euros), all these children could have a family.

Then why does the state prefer to keep them isolated? So that they grow up to adulthood in the same centers where the same employees provide them with the same „social inclusion services”.

Over 17,000 adults with mental disabilities live deprived of liberty in more than 350 residential centers. For the 3,000 Lei (approx. 670 Euros) the state pays for each individual every month, the Romanian state offers them:

  • Large shared dormitories, where privacy and family life are impossible;
  • Improper vocational training or none at all, so they can never find a job;
  • Verbal, physical and sexual abuse, without any punishment for the ones responsible;
  • Sedation, immobilization and isolation as punishment for not obeying the rules;
  • The lack of basic abilities required for living within the community, as a consequence of not having or being taught how to manage a personal budget;
  • Restricting their access to phones and to contacts of the institutions to which they could forward their complaints.

Institutionalized adults with mental disabilities would also choose a life within the community, but the state offers them only 340 Lei (approx. 75 Euros) as a monthly allowance. They grew up in social care centers, without a family and a home, and the state expects this sum to be enough for them to cover the rent, food and living costs.

How could Romanians with mental disabilities living in social care centers celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities? Most probably waiting to die as the other 4,000 institutionalized persons with mental disabilities died in the past 5 years.

In the meantime, the Romanian state is postponing for more than 5 years the creation of an independent monitoring mechanism that includes persons with mental disabilities and experts who should conduct unannounced visits in the centers where 25,000 people with mental disabilities live. Such a mechanism would help prevent abuses and open the doors for actual community-based services.

With this purpose, the Centre for Legal Resources in partnership with de-clic.ro online campaigning platform have initiated a petition that asks the Senate to adopt a law proposal regarding the establishment of such a mechanism. Therefore we invite you to sign the petition and end this national shame: facem.de-clic.ro/fara-lagare.

For more info:

Georgiana Pascu, Programme Manager, CLR, +40 729 881 159, e-mail: gpascu@crj.ro

Ovidiu Vanghele, Coordinator, Centre for Media Investigations, +40 766 532 408, e-mail: contact@investigatiimedia.ro

 

Information about the initiators
Information about the initiators

About the Centre for Legal Resources (CLR)

Since 2003, CLR conducts unannounced monitoring visits in institutions for persons with mental disabilities, publishes reports, proposes laws and policy papers, organizes trainings and debates and forwards complaints to law courts. In 2014, 10 years after the first monitoring visit and complaint, ECHR decided that Romania has violated the right to life of  the youth Valentin Câmpeanu in the case of Centre for Legal Resources on behalf of Valentin Câmpeanu v. Romania. Since 2014 CLR implements the national campaign “Death Camps Next to You”, a project initiated by the Centre for Legal Resources and financed by the EEA Grants 2009 – 2014, within the NGO Fund in Romania. Find more details on www.crj.ro/en/death-camps-next-to-you.

 About the Centre of Media Investigations (CMI)

Applies the techniques of investigation journalism to document the respect of institutionalized persons with mental disabilities within the project “The truth about those who don’t exist – journalism and activism for the rights of persons with mental disabilities living in centers with public financing”, initiated by CMI in partnership with CLR and financed by the EEA Grants 2009 – 2014, within the NGO Fund in Romania. For details access: www.investigatiimedia.ro/adevarul-despre-cei-care-nu-exista-jurnalism-si-activism-pentru-drepturile-celor-cu-dizabilitati-din-centrele-finantate-de-stat-un-proiect-centrul-de-investigatii-media-centrul-de-resurse-jur

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