UNIC Final Conference

The UNIC Conference set out a vision for transforming support and funding for long-term care and support.

News | 19.09.23

On Wednesday 13th September in Brussels leaders from European disability, support and funding organisations met for the final conference of the 3 year EU sponsored UNIC Project. This project marks an important step forward in the commitment of the EU and member states to the principles of the UNCRPD and to goals of independent living and inclusion for all people using long term care and support.

The UNIC website contains all of the valuable information and tools developed by the project: https://www.unicproject.eu

The central purpose of the UNIC Project was to support public authorities across Europe to make the move towards models of user-centred funding, personal budgets and wider systems of self-directed support. The work was inspired by the success of VAPH, the Flemish funding body in Belgium, which has successfully shifted all of its disability support funding over to a system of personal budgets. VAPH were keen to understand how they could improve their own systems and also wanted to encourage other public authorities to join them in developing a more person-centred approach.

The project partnership was led by EASPD (the European Association for Service providers for Persons with Disabilities, in partnership with the European Ageing Network (EAN). This partnership meant that the project was universal in scope, focusing on support for people with disabilities of all ages. In addition there were representatives of a diverse range of European countries:

Citizen Network Research was also a partner in the project providing technical assistance on self-directed support and leading the development of the policy guidance report and the part of the internet tool that focuses on improving public authority practice.

The project was also support by an Advisory Board including a variety of European agencies and voices representing the perspectives of people with disabilities, families, children and workers.

Some of the key publications of the project include:

In addition the UNIC Toolbox provides a survey tool that allows evaluation of progress towards user-centred funding and the goals of the UNCRPD from 3 different perspectives:

The guidance and the toolbox are available in multiple European languages. Read more in the paper here.

The importance of the UNIC Project was identified by the United Nations in their global survey of progress towards the objectives of the UNCRPD by Gerard Quinn (Transformation of Services for Persons with Disabilities):

“The project of the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities entitled 'UNIC: Towards user-centred funding models for long- term care' shows much promise.”

As the project ended there was a clear commitment to keep on learning together and to work with the Self-Directed Support Network, which is hosted by KVPS and Citizen Network. If you want to stay in touch with developments in Europe and globally please do sign up to the SDS Network at: https://selfdirectedsupport.org/subscribe

Dr Simon Duffy of Citizen Network gave a keynote speech at the Conference and his slides are available here. Reflecting on the 3 year project he said:

“The journey towards user-centred funding is long, going back to California in 1965 and the leadership of Ed Roberts, a pioneer of independent living. It has been a long and complex journey, entwined with the history of deinstitutionalisation and disability rights. Progress is patchy with some groups and places moving forward, while others are left behind. But progress continues despite often considerable obstacles.

“It was an honour to be asked to be part of this project and I’m proud of what we achieved together. Not only have we witnessed the considerable progress made by VAPH, but also significant new developments in other partner countries. At the same time we see other part of Europe, like Latvia, creating their own new initiatives. I hope the resources we’ve created together will strengthen our resolve and, perhaps most importantly, our own sense of community in this work.

“If any of this is of interest I’d really encourage you to join the SDS Network which, over the coming months, will start to share more information about what is happening around the world and how each of us can make progress in our own communities.”

The slides from Simon's presentation are shared here:

The UNIC project and its website have received financial support from the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation “EaSI” (2014-2020).

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