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Violations against persons with a mental disorder considered in a special report

05.09.2017 14:30
Category: work and news


At a press conference held at the premises of the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia on Tuesday, 5 September 2017, Human Rights Ombudsman Vlasta Nussdorfer and Deputy Ombudsman Ivan Šelih presented a special report, which the Ombudsman had sent to the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia the previous day. The report considers the issue of overcrowded secure wards in social care institutions (particularly special social care institutions) and difficulties faced by persons with a mental disorder in these wards, drawing attention to violations of their right to personal dignity.

By way of introduction, the Ombudsman stressed that the report in question was the 10th such report in the 22 years of the operation of the Human Rights Ombudsman and that the Ombudsman decides to use this kind of pressure only in extreme situations. She noted that the Mental Health Act (the ZDZdr) had become applicable in Slovenia in 2009. The act introduced a special procedure for the involuntary accommodation of persons with a mental disorder in secure wards in social care institutions in order to ensure their treatment and care.

Shortly after the Mental Health Act became applicable, the Ombudsman received the first petitions drawing attention to the fact that secure wards were overcrowded and to the problems resulting from such overcrowded conditions. Since then this has been a burning issue, and the conditions in secure wards in social care institutions are becoming increasingly difficult to bear due to the fact that the capacity of such wards has been exceeded and the consequences that such overcrowded wards have for residents and employees, the Ombudsman said.

The Ombudsman, the Association of Social Institutions of Slovenia, individual social care institutions and the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia have been drawing attention to this issue for several years; they have sent a number of letters to that effect to competent ministries and participated in press conferences and various consultations regarding the issue. Overcrowded secure wards have indeed been one of the themes of the Ombudsman’s annual reports ever since 2010.

The Ombudsman constantly monitors the activities of the relevant ministry, i.e. the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, which is seeking possible solutions for overcrowded wards, but the situation has remained unchanged for too long. That is why a decision has been made to highlight this issue in a special report, said the Ombudsman.

Pursuant to Article 7 of the Human Rights Ombudsman Act (the ZVarCP), the Ombudsman proposes that the National Assembly should:

  • consider the Ombudsman’s special report at its session and
  • adopt recommendations for the work of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia to adopt the necessary measures to ensure more appropriate involuntary accommodation and treatment of persons with a mental disorder in social care institutions in accordance with the provisions of the ZDZdr, including amendments and adjustments to the legislative framework (both the Social Assistance Act and the ZDZdr), and, in the short term, provide appropriate capacities in social care institutions and sufficient staff for the provision of appropriate social care services.

Deputy Ombudsman Ivan Šelih stressed that, at the beginning of 2017, the National Preventive Mechanism (the NPM) had carried out a detailed inspection of all secure wards in social care institutions (particularly special social care institutions) and established that in all the wards the number of persons exceeded the wards’ official capacity.

He said that the situation remained critical. According to the data of the Association of Social Institutions of Slovenia, on 1 September 2017, all special social care institutions were fully occupied, and the number of persons in secure wards exceeded the capacity of the wards by a total of 16 persons due to admissions on the basis of court decisions.

The Ombudsman notes that the overcrowded conditions in secure wards affect, in particular:

  1. the living conditions of residents in such wards,
  2. relations between residents and staff in such wards, and
  3. the quality of the implementation of programmes for maintaining the mental health of residents in secure wards and other wards in individual social care institutions.

The Ombudsman expects the State, which has determined by law that persons with a mental disorder may be accommodated in secure wards in social care institutions without their consent, to provide sufficient and appropriate capacities and ensure appropriate treatment for such persons. The current situation, where such persons are refused accommodation or are admitted and then accommodated in overcrowded rooms, dining rooms, living areas and hallways of social care institutions, is unacceptable and violates the right to dignity and safety, the Ombudsman and the Deputy Ombudsman stressed. They expect a shift to be made from making promises to actually delivering on them.





 

 


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