Learning Disability Today
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UN expert calls on governments to transform services for people with disabilities

A United Nations (UN) expert is calling for a “wholly new philosophy of service and support” for people with disabilities.

In the report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Gerard Quinn, looks at how well people with disabilities are being included and catered for in society, and presents a thematic study on reimagining services in the 21st century.

Mr Quinn says that traditional service and support models often perpetuate dependency and lack of agency by focusing on impairments and considering persons with disabilities as passive recipients of care.

However, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities promotes the social model of disability, which is grounded in personhood, autonomy and community inclusion.

He says in order to bring the Convention together with reality on the ground, we need a new philosophy of service and support, and this needs clearer articulation in law and policy.

Moving towards a model of social inclusion

Mr Quinn says the new philosophy should focus on personhood and social inclusion, creating products and services which truly advance rights and creating a human rights-based support systems and services.

He also makes various recommendations for States across the globe, advising what steps to put in place to improve the lives of people with disabilities. He recommends that:

  • States transition away from service models based exclusively on impairment
  • States determine how to invest in and shape the provision of services
  • Support shift from medically dominated systems that rely on coercion to support that is freely chosen
  • People with disabilities are consulted and included when governments make new policies or laws
  • We move away from labels such as “client”, “consumer” and “service user” and focus on the core rights of citizenship
  • Governments and other policy makers utilise supported decision-making models, peer support networks, independent living centres and provide support for families wherever possible
  • Donors support initiatives that prioritise inclusion rather than separation and stigmatisation.

People with disabilities must be prioritised

He is now calling on States to map existing services to identify gaps, tensions, funding models and expectations; reconsider funding models, legal frameworks and reporting requirements; redesign procurement policies where necessary; and develop, in active consultation with the disability community, a new policy strategy aimed at the transformation of services.

Writing in the report, Mr Quinn says: “States and societies at large must move away from systems that were historically built to provide a material safety net and relegate persons with disabilities to the margins of society.

“We have the means to implement a new philosophy of services in how we shape the market.”

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