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Closing Press Conference
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Independent Living Day
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Open Letter to the Government, Members of National Assembly Competent Institutions and Policy Makers
Ljubljana January 30 2008
We are addressing this letter to a wider political audience and the general public on purpose because our requests and plights to solve our problems are usually passed from one institution to another and are usually left unresolved. Nobody replies to our letters and everyone washes their hands over our issues, saying that they are not authorized to deal with them. Just before the end of the year we sent a letter to the members of the National Assembly (parliament), one of the many letters that was ignored. We sent a report titled “Deinstitutionalisation and Community Living – Outcomes and Costs”, financed by the European Commission (EC) and another appeal to the Decision of the distribution FIHO (Foundation for Financing Invalid and Humanitarian Organizations) funds, and yet again, no reply, because everybody is used to distributing the FIHO funds based on sympathies and favouritism.
The member of the National Assembly Barbara Žgajner-Tavš was the only one who asked the Minister of Family Labour and Social Affairs, Mrs. Cotman to do something about it, but her appeal was met with silence. What else can we expect based on the years of experience that we have with dealing with that particular ministry? We also sent a letter to the President of the Republic of Slovenia, however he has not replied to this day.
Actually, this is old news to us and with all the absurdities that took place in the National Assembly last fall when an act was amended in such a way that FIHO has even more power than ever before few things can surprise us. The Act gave way to privileged groups, elitism, and opaque distribution of earmarked funds. We didn’t have to wait long to see the functionaries of the disability organisations at FIHO to (ab)use their power that they hold in the bodies of the foundation. Not only was this year’s distribution of funds questionable to say the least, the enclosed disclaimer was, as it later turned out, misleading. All of us who dared to appeal to the decision of distribution of the funds for the year 2008 were punished by losing the associated monthly payment until the National Assembly approves the appeal procedure.
The procedure may take a long time and until then we must make monthly payments to the 91 personal assistants that we employ. Without a quick resolution of the issue at hand we are facing the dismantling of our programme and consequently deprivation of 103 of our users and 99 unemployed persons. Let us remind you that the FIHO funds allocated to YHD for the year 2008 is less than we require for the normal functioning of our programme. This is the reason why we appealed because we were well aware that the priorities of financing and appropriate destination of the funds are not being taken into consideration.For six years we have been writing proposals and initiatives and amendments to the acts and laws concerning the foundation. We have also proposed numerous systemic solutions that would regulate the field of social care on the long run and ensure independent living, deinstitutionalisation, empowerment of an individual who should have full control over the services are implemented.
Political decisions and the political will shown is nothing but outright mockery. Our arguments, dialog, and institutional and legal procedures have turned out to be a waste of time, energy and money. We are repulsed with everything that has taken place and is allowed to happen. It seems that the results of one’s work mean nothing in this country and bear no importance at all. All that counts is to be on the right side, to be corrupt, to be ready to do anything, to be cunning, to use all methods of pressure and extortion, but of course you need the resources for lobbying and the legal machinery that clears the possible complaints or makes use of legal exhaustion. The most productive profession in Slovenia is a profession of a disabled person.
The already mentioned report of the EC is very telling. The part of the report that describes Slovenia by a researcher at the University of Siegen (Germany) notes in the introduction that in spite the many appeals to Ministry of Work, Family and Social Affairs, the National Education Institute and Ministry of Health she received no reply from either of these institutions. Her main source of information about Slovenia was thus a report titled “Rights of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities; Accessibility to Education and Employment by Prof. Darja Zaviršek that she prepared with the support of the Open Society Institute and EUMAP (EU Monitoring and Advocacy Programme).
The EC report supports the development of community services and independent living of the disabled at the highest level possible and cites only two positive examples: the Silva Foundation and the YHD Association. This is tragic given that Government Council for Persons with Disabilities published a special publication in which it aims to discredit us and settle account with our association (with no consequences or accepting responsibility for their actions up to this point). What is especially tragic and pitiful is the fact that there are two bodies within the framework of the Ministry of Work, Family and Social Affairs: the Directorate for the Disabled and last but not least the Committee on Labour, the Family Social Policy and Disability that do not seem to be competent enough to offer answers to the new challenges brought about by the new concepts in the field of social, invalid and health care, and above all human rights and equality.
What else can we do to preserve our existence?
We need to somehow force you to make things right.
Just so we are clear about the institutions that we have in mind in the “you” in the sentence above:
The National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, The Government of the Republic of Slovenia, Ministry of Work, Family and Social Affairs, Commission for Petitions, Human Rights and Equal Opportunities, Committee on Labour, the Family Social Policy and Disability
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