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The ESN’s Working Group on Disability was launched in May 2014 and concluded in 2016.

The group’s work aimed to increase the capacity of public authorities to plan and manage services for people with disabilities in a sustainable and person-centred manner, and to promote independent living and free choice and control for users.

The group brought together around 30 ESN members from 20 different countries working in public social services within local authorities, national bodies, quality inspection services, as well as universities. A strong focus was put on the practical implementation of services through the systematic gathering of practices related to each meeting’s topics (available in our practice library).

  1. The first meeting (Brighton, 4-5 December 2014) was introductory and looked at initiatives and policy frameworks promoting independent living at local and European levels. A number of practices highlighted issues such as the role of local authorities in implementing services, and presented the state of play of disability services across Europe. 
  2. The second meeting (Brighton, 12-13 March 2015) focused on the integration of services for people with disabilities, and how social and health services, but also various levels or sectors within social services, can better collaborate to meet users’ needs in the best possible way. See our short video featuring members from Denmark, England, Ireland and Spain.
  3. The third meeting (Vilnius, 19 November 2015) looked at how social services and the public sector can help people with disabilities to enter and remain in the labour market by offering tailored, coordinated and gradual support, thus contributing to their full inclusion into society and their local communities. As the meeting took place in Lithuania, we learned about reforms and measures in the Baltic countries as well as policy, legislative background and practices in the 12 different countries of the participating ESN members. An interim assessment of the 12 practices submitted by members was analysed by an independent researcher, Dr Sarah Carr (available in the members area). You can read more about this meeting in FrenchGermanItalian and Spanish.
  4. The fourth meeting (Sofia, 5 April 2016) saw three service users and around 12 ESN members engage in presentations and discussions around the topic of service user involvement in designing, evaluating and even running services. In recent years, users have increasingly been put at the core of policy and practice developments through such mechanisms as peer support and co-production. For services, user involvement generally means improved quality and reliance. For users, this is an important, if not indispensable component of independent living and free choice and control.
  5. The final meeting (Brighton, 11-12 October 2016) focused on the quality and evaluation of social services for people with disabilities. On the second day, a joint session of both working groups discussed the interactions of disability and ageing, and their implications for the planning and delivery of social services and support.