The Seimas (Parliament) Ombudspersons’ Office of Lithuania recently published a report on human rights in the Jurdaičiai social care home, which also shows the general situation in all similar institutions. The head of the Seimas Obmudspersons’ Office, Erika Leonaitė, stated that even though the living conditions are generally adequately ensured, there are still many problems in the social care system due to the slow and ineffective reorganization of care institutions. The Ombudsperson has recommended that care institutions should move towards deinstitutionalization and prepare individuals to live in the local communities.
During the inspection of the Jurdaičiai social care home, it was discovered that there were individuals who, with appropriate assistance, could live in the local community, outside of the care home – which should be a goal under the reorganization of care institutions. However, the problem is that there is a lack of housing for such individuals, forcing them to remain in the care home. For example, this year only one resident of the Jurdaičiai social care home will be prepared for living in the local community, although the number of the residents who expressed their wish to live in the community or with their families is much larger. Moreover, due to the reorganization of the social care system, the number of available places in social care homes is reduced each year, but a waiting list to get into these institutions still exists; currently there are 12 people on the waiting list of the Jurdaičiai social care home, and other institutions face the same problem. Seimas Ombudsperson Erika Leonaitė suggested that this means that there are no proper alternatives to institutional care in Lithuania.
The Jurdaičiai social care home is providing information for its residents in simple language (for example, the menu is printed in big letters and includes pictures), and the infrastructure is generally adapted for residents with disabilities or impairments. However, psychological services for the residents were insufficient. With the assistance of staff, social care home residents can take care of the household and do laundry, cooking, shopping, and care for pets, they were allowed to move freely within the care home premises and beyond, and to visit family when desired, but they still lack the skills which would allow them to live in the local community, such as using public transportation and financial literacy.
Currently, there are about 30 institutional care homes in Lithuania, which together house about 6,000 residents with disabilities. The aim of deinstitutionalization is to establish 42 community residential homes for 300 people by the end of this year. Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities defines that a person must have the right to live in the community with others on an equal basis with all members of society, and therefore people with disabilities must be given the opportunity to freely choose their place of residence. Therefore, the establishment of new community residential homes raises the question of whether these and other important human rights will be guaranteed. Residential homes must not become yet more segregated, but smaller institutions; human rights, individual needs, independence and social inclusion of the residents must be ensured.
Image: Cliff Booth | Pexels