Closing down six institutions: Slowly, Hungarian disability policies are changing

Soon, 600 people with disabilities will leave 6 institutions. This is a great step. The EU has granted money for this purpose and Hungary, in spite of a thousand mistakes, has utilised it well. Research report from HCLU.

Deinstitutionalization can resemble someone trying to turn the family Trabant westward, while travelling east. The driver at first doesn’t understand why should they turn: the steering wheel is stuck and there isn’t enough space on the road. But a suited-up stranger on the side of the road is gesticulating wildly to explain that this particular direction is better, and also promises to provide some gas. The driver of the Trabant gathers all their strength, and over the cacophony of the quarrelling family in the backseat, turns the car only to immediately take a wrong turn at the following intersection and fail to notice it for a long time. When they do, it’s too late to turn back.

This how we do deinstitutionalization.

We announce an international disability agreement, which we don’t quite understand. We decide that we’ll close a large number of institutions, but we don’t know what we should do afterwards or how to go about it. We don’t trust the EU, but we accept the allocated funds. On top of all this, the EU doesn’t know what to ask of us either.

The end results arise from incompetence, misunderstandings, goodwill and determination. With all its faults, it is still cause for pride.

The excellent analysis of Ágnes Kozma, Gábor Petri, Attila Balogh and Magdolna Birtha provides details on how this all came together. The study presents:

  • How Hungary executed the programme;
  • How the closing of the six institutions proceeded and how the inhabitants were moved out of Bélapátfalva, Berzence, Szentes, Kalocsa, Szakoly and Mérk.
  • How EU funds were spent and how they support the transition of the disabled from institutional to community based care; and finally
  • How the residents experienced this process and how much they were able to participate in the shaping of their own future.

Download and read the research report here, titled:

The role of EU funding in deinstitutionalisation (DI)in Hungaryand the experiences of the DI programme so far

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