This project started in 2003 as part of the European Year of People with Disabilities. It is developed to a PhD study at the University of Groningen, executed by Marc van Santvoort and supervised by Prof. Wim van den Heuvel.
This study deals with European disability policy and with the position of people with disabilities in Europe.
Disability issues in Europe are of growing importance. This is not only demonstrated by the ongoing policy developments at the European level, but also by the number of people with disabilities for whom this policy is especially relevant. Surveys conducted in all EU Member States show that about 16% of the population aged 16-64 years have a long standing health problem or disability and 3.4% has a severe health problem (Eurostat 2005). With the ageing of the European population disability issues will only become more important. For the next decade the number of people with disabilities will increase in Europe.
Because of this growing number Europe has to deal with people with disabilities. At the same time an active health and social policy may have effect on the position of persons with disabilities and the expected increase of their number. In an OECD study it is stated that “health and long-term care policies can certainly make a difference in transforming the pure demographic effect of ageing into very different social outcomes” (Jacobzone, Cambois, & Robine 2000). It is however not only an issue for national policies, but it is a common European issue. Because of developments in policy and legislation in areas outside the domain of health and social policy, such as freedom of movement of persons/workers, goods, services and capital, and developments in the field of human rights and anti-discrimination a coordinated ‘European disability policy’ seems desirable.
The objective of this study is twofold:
- to analyse developments of disability policy at the level of the European Union as well as to study cross-nationally the similarities and differences in disability policy in various European countries, including an analysis of the relation between policy at the European and the national level;
- to compare the situation of disabled people in a number of European countries and to explore the relation between this situation and the policy circumstances in these countries.
The studied has shwon that EU countries develop their own disability policy, although they use abstract concepts which are 'proposed'by the EU. Disability policies may be classified in 3 types: 'comprehensive', 'fragmented' and 'transitional'.
Disability policies in countries may have some effect on societal participation of people with disabilities, but the overall picture is clear: in all countries people with disabilities are worse of concerning societal participation and wellbeing.
The study resulted in a PhD by Marc van Santvoort 'Disability in Europe: policy, social participation and subjective wellbeing' defended at the University of Groningen 15 June 2009.