In his opening speech Mr Uldis Augulis, the Minister for Welfare of Latvia, emphasized that all people regardless of their health and social condition or background have rights to live in a community and enjoy equal freedom of choice. Minister expressed gratitude to the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway to the Republic of Latvia Mr Steinar Egil Hagen for help and cooperation during the preparation works of this conference.
Mr Jiří Švarc, the Head of Unit from the European Commission Directorate-General of Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, stressed the necessity of de-institutionalisation and indicated that basically it is a question of human rights and improvement of quality of life for those persons who are isolated. Mr Švarc explained that the European Union structural funds are available for this purpose in the period from 2014 to 2020.
Mr Jan Jařab, Regional representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, emphasized that human rights equally apply to all persons, including persons with disabilities and children. Since institutional care is often characterized by lack of individual approach or lack of stimulating activities, too much routine and isolation from the society, it is a real challenge for human rights. At the same time he reminded that replacement of large institutions with medium-sized means a lost opportunity, since providing services in facilities larger than a normal-sized family residence is unlikely to exclude an institutional care culture. Therefore the aim is not to close down institutions but rather replace them by something better, more individualized, more human.
Various aspects of social service quality were discussed in the conference emphasizing the importance of evaluation of the need of each human being and ability to offer matching personalized support. It was also highlighted that even the best institutional care cannot provide the most important thing for development of a child – that is love, which can be ensured only in a family environment.
In the second part of the conference the challenges and good practices of other countries were analysed to advance the switch to a family and community-based care system.
In the end of the conference Ms Aija Barča, Chairman of the Saeima Social and Employment Affairs Committee, and Mr Aivars Lācarus, Chairman of Health and Social Affairs Committee of Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments, expressed their support for progress towards de-institutionalisation.
Representatives of the European Economic and Social Committee, OECD, EU Member States, Norway as well as international and non-governmental organisations and European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care participated in the conference.
The Conference was organised with the support of EEA and Norwegian Grants. Agenda and presentations are available in website of the Ministry of Welfare.