Protecting the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities and mental health problems during the COVID-19 crisis  

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Measures taken during and after the pandemic must be adapted to the specific needs of people with intellectual disabilities, who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

In a draft motion for resolution adopted on Tuesday with 33 votes in favour and none against, the Committee on Petitions urges member states to ensure equal and non-discriminatory access to healthcare and social services to persons with intellectual disabilities, in compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Impacts of confinement

The Committee on Petitions is deeply concerned over the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on persons with intellectual disabilities and mental health problems and warn that strict confinement measure have caused additional isolation and harm to their mental health.

MEPs underline that all health communication related to the pandemic and confinement measures must be accessible for persons with disabilities in plain language and in several traditional and digital format, as well as in national sign language. Member states should also provide psychological support to people with intellectual disabilities to soften the impact of confinement measures and ensure they have access to legal recourse, with special attention given to proactively identifying those without legal capacity or access to a legal guardian to protect their rights.

Reinforcing support systems

The current situation around COVID-19 has exposed the persistent social segregation and discrimination of persons with disabilities, according to the draft report, as well as major flaws in support systems, healthcare and education. Barriers to access health services and hygiene must be removed, underline MEPs and call on the Commission to mobilise essential investments and resources to guarantee the continuity of care and support services.

MEPs also call for the prioritisation of investments towards a gradual transition from institutional care to community based services for persons with intellectual disabilities and the use of funds to support the provision of personalised support services. They also demand better use of digital technologies and applications for the promotion of independent living and distance learning.

Preparing for future risks and emergencies

The draft resolution calls on the Commission and member states to ensure common protocols for possible future humanitarian emergencies or health disasters, based on lessons learnt from the current crisis, taking into account the specific needs and circumstances of persons with disabilities. The adoption of any future measures should involve persons with disabilities from the outset, stress MEPs.

The Petitions Committee also calls on the Commission to put forward a comprehensive, ambitious and long-term post-2020 European Disability Strategy proposal, which takes into account lessons learnt from the COVID-19 crisis.

Background information

This draft motion for resolution comes after the examination of petition 0470/2020 on 19 May 2020 by the Committee on Petitions, related to the situation of people with intellectual disabilities and their families during the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown phase. The petitioner highlights the harmful effects of lockdown, such as the disruption of habitual health treatment, personal assistance and closing down of medical facilities and requests that measures taken during the health crisis and its aftermath are compatible with both the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities.