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Although the rights of people with disabilities to freedom of choice and to independent living are part of a number of international and European laws and regulations (most notably the Un Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities), many European countries hesitate to make the move from care in large institutions to providing community-based support in a home environment. The transition from ‘institutional care’ for disabled people to ‘community-based services’ is not just an option or a trend, but a binding duty for governments and providers of care and support.

In each country the transition from residential care to community-based support and the introduction of social entrepreneurship in the last decades are being implemented in a different way and within a different timeframe.

An increasing number of Western European countries are taking radical or prudent steps towards de-institutionalisation, but some are still heavily relying in the institutional model of care.

The governments in some  of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union are also taking steps to realise this transition, partly under pressure from the organisations of people with disabilities and partly under influence of the European Union. In some countries it concerns prudent and limited experiments, in other countries the regulations and structures are being changed radically into the model that supports social inclusion and equal citizenship of people with disabilities (which is already in place in a number of Western European countries).

The speed and the way this new tendencies and developments are introduced in the different member states of the EU are strongly influenced by elements such as:

The historical evolution of social policy and social support in the member states.

The legal framework on the organisation and the financing of social services in the member states.

The social, economic and financial situation of the member states.

Although providers of social services in the EU countries are operating in different social, economic and legal environments, they all are confronted with the mentioned tendencies and developments.

Organisations in Central and Eastern Europe in their efforts to make this transition can learn and profit from the experiences and expertise of those Western European partners with experience in providing quality community-based services for people with disabilities, developed during the last decades of the last century.

Western European partners on the other hand can learn from the commitment, the creativity and the urge to innovate that a number of Eastern European organisations show in creating small and integrated social services without structural funding and support.

And all partners need to appreciate the increased revenue, focus and effectiveness that can come from adopting ‘for-profit’ business approaches. They need to reinvent themselves as social entrepreneurs, combining ‘the passion of a social mission with an image of business-like discipline, innovation, and determination’. They need to combine the very best of the not-for-profit, philanthropic world with the very best of the for-profit, enterprising world.

OwnerDescriptionDue DateComplete
Julie Survey Customers 29 October 2009  
John Define Project 5 November 2009  
Mark Hold Brainstorming Session With Team 16 December 2009  
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