The European Network of Independent Living (ENIL) welcomes the first complaint concerning access of disabled people to personal assistance submitted to the European Court of Human Rights. The case of Radi v. Romania, submitted earlier this month, challenges the manner in which personal assistance is provided to people with disabilities.
It argues that such treatment amounts to violation of Article 4 (prohibition of slavery and forced labour), Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In Romania, personal assistance is provided mainly by family members, without taking into account the individual needs of the disabled person, or their preferences. As such, personal assistance does not support the independent living of disabled people and forces their family members (predominantly women) to give up their jobs and become full-time carers. Although formally employees of the state, personal assistants are deprived of most rights guaranteed under Romania’s Labour Code and are paid a minimum wage, regardless of their qualification, previous work experience or the number of working hours. They also effectively do not have a right to rest, even though they may be caring for their family member 24/7.
Rather than support the enjoyment of the right to independent living, the complaint argues that personal assistance contributes to social isolation of disabled people. It is provided without an individual assessment and involvement of disabled people, resulting in the same amount of hours allocated to anyone classified as having a ‘serious disability’. Disabled people are not involved in recruiting, training or managing their personal assistants. Moreover, the salaries allocated to personal assistants are too low to recruit anyone on the open labour market.
Personal assistance is one of the services included in Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by most EU Member States, including Romania. This case raises important questions about how personal assistance is provided and whether it genuinely supports the right to independent living. It presents the Court with an opportunity to develop its jurisprudence on the right of disabled people to live in the community – for which personal assistance is a necessary prerequisite.
REHACARE.de; Source: European Network of Independent Living (ENIL)