Protest by civil society leads to agreement and beyond: the Hungarian National Development Agency (NDA) and long stay institutions

An agreement was reached between NGOs and the Hungarian Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour on a National Development Agency call for proposals. It was agreed that European Community funds can and must be used for the closure of long stay institutions and the establishment of family-scale housing. The goal is for disabled persons to become neighbors rather than anonymous residents in institutions.

On October 9th, 2009 the NDA put its funding package worth 13 billion forints up for social debate. The package included provisions that are in grave violation of Hungarian law and international agreements that Hungary has pledged to honor. European taxpayer funding under the proposal would have been used to increase the number of long stay total institutions instead of terminating them as the Parliament pledged to do in 1998. An open letter of protest signed by domestic and international NGOs and professionals against the package was sent to the Minister of Social Affairs and the Prime Minister. News of the protest also reached the media.
An agreement was reached during the third round of negotiations with the government. The NDA recalled its proposed package and the government and NGOs called upon the agency to prepare new tender documentation.
According to the agreement, funding may be used exclusively for the closure of long stay institutions and for the establishment of alternative housing in the community, each for a maximum of 12 residents. According to the agreement, the government will make up for the decade long delay in taking this action by the beginning of 2010 and prepare a national strategy for deinstitutionalization of long stay institutions. The preparatory stage of the strategy development will be a public process, and the Ministry of Social Affairs will operate a webpage dedicated to making the strategy building process transparent, allowing anybody to make comments and suggestions.
The NGOs that protested the original funding package have the opportunity to delegate two members to the working group that will prepare the new strategy. Ildikó Horváthné Somogyi, Director of the Hungarian Association for Persons with Intellectual Disability in Veszprém and Tamás Verdes, from the HCLU’s Patients’ Rights Program will participate in the group. Tamás Verdes will not receive any form of payment for his participation in the working group. We expect their involvement to ensure that the new call for proposals will be in harmony with the agreement and with the international treaties Hungary has pledged to honor, ensuring that resulting services respect human rights and promote the social inclusion of people with disabilities.

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