The Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia (hereinafter referred to as the Ombudsman) looked into various initiatives concerning people with disabilities and met with representatives of disability organizations. The Ombudsman continued with efforts to bring attention to the need for deinstitutionalization and establishment of an independent body to effectively promote, protect and monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and supported the initiative for the entry of Slovene sign language into the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia.
The Ombudsman issued several recommendations to the government, ministries and other stakeholders concerning COVID-19 and beyond (on mandatory mask-wearing, problems in institutional care facilities, provision of services in work centres and training institutions for people with moderate and severe mental and physical disabilities).
The Ombudsman paid particular attention to the problems in institutional care facilities (several rounds of questionnaires for all institutions for accommodation and care for people with mental health problems have been sent) and drew attention to the issues identified.
The Ombudsman also met in person with the relevant ministers to discuss the amendments to the Mental Health Act and the lack of adequate capacities for placement of persons in psychiatric hospitals and special social care institutions. He was also critical of the possible outbreak of infection due to severe overcrowding in protective wards and lack of capacities for establishing red zones and called for a quick and effective action to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection in the social care accommodation institutions.
Following the Ombudsman's recommendation, the government set an exception regarding the obligation to wear masks for direct communication with deaf and hard-of-hearing persons. After examining an initiative regarding the mandatory mask-wearing for children with special needs, the Ombudsman also suggested to the authorities to consider setting exemptions for people who cannot wear masks. The competent ministries have accepted the Ombudsman's recommendation; however, that hasn't yet resulted in the change of the relevant legislation.
The Ombudsman also drew attention to the specifics of children with various chronic, autoimmune, rare or other diseases, which make them even more vulnerable in the event of coronavirus infection or COVID-19 disease. He recommended to the authorities to include medical professionals from different specialities in the search for solutions, as well as pedagogical staff, who will eventually have to ensure the implementation of the adopted measures.
The Ombudsman looked carefully into the accessibility of the work centres for people with moderate and severe mental and physical disabilities, as well and established that the situation is still unsatisfactory due to lack of sufficient capacities. The Ombudsman also drew attention to the need to release the provision of services in work centres and training institutions for people with moderate and severe mental and physical disabilities, which were limited due to the epidemic, and inquired regarding the alleged refusal by the ministry to conclude contracts for the provision of personal assistance.
Furthermore, the Ombudsman looked into the provision of help to families with children with special needs. After establishing that there has been a violation of Article 23 of the CRPD regarding the state's obligation to collect relevant disaggregated data and establish mechanisms to control the redistribution of resources effectively, the ministry has been called on to carry out an appropriate analysis as soon as possible.
In September 2020 the Ombudsman submitted to the Council of Europe comments to the 19th National Report on the implementation of the European Social Charter. The submission included several issues related to disability, including long delays in implementation of the legal requirements regarding the accessibility of the physical environment, transportation, information and communications for persons with disabilities, and shortcomings in providing adequate, accessible, affordable and acceptable services for people with disabilities in need of assistance (including lack of policies aimed at deinstitutionalization).
The Ombudsman carried out a two-day consultation and training on communication with children with special needs for persons acting as "child advocates" in the Ombudsman's special program aimed at providing expert help to children when expressing their opinion in all proceedings and matters involving the child.