Globally, the number of disabled people are increasing as a result of conflict, poor health, malnutrition, preventable diseases, accidents, natural disasters and an increasingly ageing population. Persons with disabilities are often the poorest and most vulnerable in their communities. They face significantly higher levels of discrimination and social exclusion.
A disability raises the chances of a person falling into poverty, due to reduced access to education and employment and having to cope with extra expenses. At the same time, poverty can increase the risk of disability and prevents rehabilitation, due to poor health, reduced access to social services or unsafe living and working conditions. Therefore every country must do social investments in order to empower this special group.
Social investments for Disabled people in Europe
The countries of the European Union have collectively identified and implemented particular policies for social investments towards people with disabilities, which are useful for empowering people with disabilities. The European Disability Strategy 2010-2020, adopted by the European Commission in November 2010, represents a fundamental policy instrument for persons with disabilities and also this covers social investments. The Strategy identifies eight main areas for action. Those are Accessibility, Participation, Equality, Employment, Education and Training, Social Protection, Health, and External Action.
Examples from European Countries
Below mentioned examples for social investments for people and children with special needs (disabled people/children) and positive outcomes of that social investments show the effectiveness of implementing this concept.
- Hungary has invested for a unique miracle castle and playground, where professional conductors support the kids with normal and special needs to learn, play and develop together, hence make the everyday life evident to them. According to 2018 reports, since opening, more than 1000 kids with special needs visited the center, and they have recurring more than 50 families for development programs. This center is helping these children to build their self-esteem and gain self-satisfaction from fun activities.
- In Slovakia, there is a Residential care home for disabled, older adults funded by ERSTE Foundation. Also, it employs people with disabilities by employing them to manage the facility and 20 people with disabilities permanently employed at the facility. Apart from these employment opportunities there are some other educational program and training programs for them.
- Estonia spends relatively more on cash benefits for families with children and disabled people. Also, government institutions and centers are trying to empower disabled people financially by providing opportunities to generate income. Not only government sector, but also private sector focuses on the social investments towards people with special needs. LOOMRO is one of the emerging social enterprise which works with mental health institution to provide income for mentally disabled people. Active labor market policies has increased in recent years in Estonia, and work capacity reform has been initiated to bring more disabled people back to the labor market.
- Lithuania has developed a system of vocational rehabilitation services for the disabled and the network of institutions which provide services.
Do people with disabilities need extra attention?
In terms of empowerment, the above-mentioned examples show that those social investments towards people with special needs are more effective than social protection. When comparing to developing countries, European countries have well established and well maintained social investments towards Disabled people.
But when it is comparing with social investments in European countries towards the other groups such as children, women and other subjects such as unemployment, childcare and parenting; social investments for disabled people do have a long way to go, and it needs more space for develop.