People with disabilities less included in Dutch society than 3 years ago: report

The position of people with disabilities in the Netherlands is deteriorating. Over the past three years, it has become more difficult for people with disabilities to fully participate in society, according to a report commissioned by the UN Convention Alliance, a collaboration of five organizations that advocate for people with disabilities, which will be handed to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva on Tuesday, Trouw reports.

The researchers asked people with a disability about their experiences and looked into figures on poverty, unemployment, and the like. Ten years ago, 9.5 percent of people with a disability lived in poverty. In 2016, that was 24.6 percent. In 2011, a total of 3,317 children were excluded from the school system due to their disability. Last year 5,576 children were excluded. The researchers found that the Participation Act - the law intended to help people with disabilities find work - is not working. Even in the current times of widespread staff shortages, unemployment is increasing among people with disabilities. There are also not enough affordable adapted homes.

"You can remove all barriers, make all cafes, festivals and websites accessible, but if people with a disability don't get education, have no income, or have no roof over they heads, they will not ever get to the hospitality industry or festivals," Illya Soffer, director of IederIn, one of the participants in the UN Convention Alliance, said to Trouw. "Then they stay disadvantaged."

In order to prevent people with disabilities being excluded or disadvantaged, the government needs to step in, Soffer said. But the government is increasingly withdrawing from the burden of care, as can be seen with the decentralization of healthcare in 2015 - a main cause for the deteriorating position of this group, according to Soffer. "You see many negative effects come from that," she said. "Many facilities for care and support, learning, living and working have been phased out and broken down, allowances and tax benefits have disappeared, while they were intended to give people with a disability an normal place in society."

The extra care responsibilities also mean that municipalities' budgets are stretched thinner and thinner. And then people with disabilities are often the first to get left behind, Soffer said. "City councils are dealing with addicts, nuisances, poverty,  child abuse, refugees, and then you also have some people with disabilities", she said. "Money goes to social problems and nuisance. You see that with the youth aid. Children with disabilities come off badly in youth aid because the emphasis is on equal opportunities for children who come from vulnerable families. People with disabilities are not visible. They do not step on tractors towards Malieveld. They are dependent, isolated and do not cause any inconvenience. The sum of that makes their position extra vulnerable."

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