Georgia commits to reform law on care access for children with disabilities

16 November 2021
Georgia commits to reform law on care access for children with disabilities

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has granted interim measures in a case that has led Georgia to agree to reform a decree setting arbitrary limits on the amount and type of care children with disabilities can access.

With the support of EHRAC, the Georgia-based Partnership for Human Rights (PHR) submitted an interim measure request to the ECtHR after a young person with a disability was refused the level of personal home care he needed to ensure his and his family’s safety and wellbeing.

“It is a core principle of the equal enjoyment of rights that government services should be structured so as to be able to accommodate for the varied needs of people with disabilities,” said EHRAC Lawyer Elba Bendo. “This amendment is a step forward for equal access to care for young people with disabilities in Georgia.”

As a result of his disability, the young person exhibits violent behaviour towards himself and his caregivers. The organisation tasked with implementing the government programme assessed the young person’s needs and determined that the family was generally eligible for the programme.

However, the organisation said it would be unsafe to provide care within the current parameters of the programme as the child needed extended hours of care provided by at least two caregivers who would be able to manoeuvre him physically.

On this basis, the family was denied care, leaving the mother to provide around the clock care as a sole caregiver while experiencing persistent incidences of violence.

“Our aim in advocating for this important policy change was to ensure that all children in Georgia, without exception, can be given a chance of social inclusion, access to education and a life free of violence.”

PHR and EHRAC challenged this decision and the government decree, arguing that, without the provision of the requisite level of care, the young person’s disability-related behaviour posed a real and imminent risk to his life and that of his mother.

“Our aim in advocating for this important policy change was to ensure that all children in Georgia, without exception, can be given a chance of social inclusion, access to education and a life free of violence,” said Anna Arganashvili, PHR Executive Director.

Following a series of back and forth communications between the applicant and the government before the ECtHR, the government agreed to amend its decree to enable care for all youth whose needs fall outside the parameters of the support programme and urgently fund services for the applicant. The government also agreed to increase pay for support workers under the programme to facilitate the recruitment of suitable caregivers.

“This amendment is a step forward for equal access to care for young people with disabilities in Georgia.”

On November 8, the ECtHR granted the interim measure request, calling on the Georgian government to urgently provide the applicant with a personal caregiver as per the parameters of the existing government programme and increase this support as soon as the decree’s amendments enter into force.

PHR and EHRAC are monitoring the implementation of the Court’s request.