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How does a town for people with disabilities live in Germany

June 11, 2023, 19:55 119 Author: Albert Pavlov helpus.org.ua Comparison of life in the town of Herzogzagmulhe and in Ukrainian psycho-neurological institutions.

How does a town for people with disabilities live in Germany

As I already wrote in previous posts, psycho-neurological institutions (PNI) in Ukraine are a system that has been ossified since Soviet times, in which human rights are violated at every step. And I was always interested to see with my own eyes, in what form such institutions exist in Europe. And before returning to Ukraine, I managed to visit a very interesting place in the south of Bavaria in Germany - Herzogsagmuhle.

This is a whole town in which there are various services for people with mental, intellectual and physical disabilities. In addition, this complex has supported housing for the homeless, people with addictions and simply homes for the elderly, as well as numerous workshops, greenhouses, shops, a restaurant and cafe, football fields and tennis courts.

This place was founded as a colony for the unemployed over 125 years ago. During the First World War, russian prisoners even worked here. After the Second World War, the management of this settlement was transferred to the Protestant organization Diakonie. And it must be admitted - with the support of the state and private donors, it was possible to create so many services, educational institutions, enterprises and houses for housing here that listing all this would take a whole book. In short, these are about 700 people who live in various forms of supported housing. These are more than 1,100 employees. These are also services for adults, children and young people who work outside the village.

One of the employees kindly agreed to give me a tour of some of the houses scattered over a vast area in the picturesque foothills of the Alps. Here are a few moments that I remember the most - and in parentheses a comparison with Ukrainian realities:

- most residents live in single rooms equipped with a separate bathroom, often with access to a balcony or terrace (in Ukraine - most often rooms for 4-10 people, a common bathroom for 25-40 people);

- the area of a room for one resident is at least 15 square meters. m. There is a building that is going to be closed only because the area is smaller than the norm by 1-2 square meters. (in Ukraine, many private households have less than 6 square meters per person);

- all buildings are equipped with elevators and adapted for the movement of people with limited mobility (in Ukraine, elevators are practically absent, there are ramps not everywhere, "recumbent" people and people in wheelchairs cannot go outside for months);

- by the number of personnel - of course, everything is many times better than in Ukraine. For example, in the building with the most "difficult" residents, 2 social workers serve 6 residents. Plus, the cleaners work extra. You should also take into account the best equipment - special baths, beds, elevators, vacuum cleaners, etc. facilitate the care of "lying" residents;

- availability of more qualified personnel. A social worker undergoes serious training from 3 years, his assistant - from 1 year. Psychology, pedagogy, medicine, anatomy, law, organization of living space, etc. are studied;

- all rooms are locked by the residents themselves, there is also enough furniture with locks for storing personal belongings (in our PNI, the rooms are not locked, there are no cupboards with locks, sometimes there are not even bedside tables. Complete lack of privacy);

- the entire territory of the settlement is open to the outside world, and residents can also freely leave both their house and the territory of the settlement (in our country, the PNI is usually protected by a fence and guarded);

- in Germany, as far as I understand, there are no people who are completely incapacitated. All questions regarding the choice of place and lifestyle are resolved with the participation of a person with a disability. Such people may have a guardian, but this does not deprive a person of legal capacity (in Ukraine, thousands of residents of PNI have been deprived of legal capacity by the court, and the guardian is the director of the psycho-neurological institution. Often, even those who are quite capable of making independent decisions are incapacitated. It is very difficult to restore a person’s rights, and such cases are rare);

- the village has more than 30 options for various work activities, as well as workshops and a school. There are greenhouses, fields and even a computer center. The products are sold in the local supermarket and several other stores in different cities, as well as via the Internet. In addition, many companies place orders for production in Herzogzagmulhe workshops. (in PNI in Ukraine, most of the nhabitants are not employed; in some psycho-neurological institutions there are auxiliary farms and sewing workshops, but usually the level of production development in them is very weak);

- not only residents and employees, but also residents of neighboring towns make purchases in the local supermarket and cafe. In essence, the local store is an Edeka chain supermarket (like our Silpo), with a full assortment, part of which is produced in Herzogzagmulhe;

- and another fact that surprised me - in addition to the regular bus, for a trip to the nearest city of Paiting, anyone can call an electric taxi for free (which we used on the way back).

Of course, even in this project, implemented in such a rich country as Germany, there are shortcomings. This is not very relevant for Ukrainian realities, but I will still list:

- the government believes that it is necessary to fight the concentration of so many people with disabilities in one place, so the priority in Germany is now given to houses of supported living, integrated into the community, and located within the boundaries of cities and towns (this is done by the organization Lebenshilfe and others);

- in connection with this, in Herzogzagmulhe, as far as I understand, no new buildings are being built and the number of residents is not increasing;

- due to insufficient living space, entire buildings are being closed, which by Ukrainian standards would be a dream for our PNI inhabitants to live in;

- despite the fact that this project has its own center for training social workers and teachers, there is still a certain shortage of employees (wages are insufficient by German standards);

- there is a "waiting list" among those willing to get into this project.

Summarizing:

Of course, the developed economy of Germany makes it possible to make the life of people with disabilities much better than it is possible in Ukraine. But this does not mean that we cannot improve the situation in Ukraine. In addition to the lack of funding, corruption still thrives in our PNIs, this system remains closed to the public, and society practically shows no interest in the people who live in the PNIs.

We can't immediately build elevators in buildings or provide everyone with a private room, but we can improve the lives of these people day by day.

And for this you need two things:

- wise management and a strong desire to change the system;

- money! With existing funding, we keep PNI inhabitants as animals, not as people. Society, civil servants and deputies of all levels should apply their brains, find resources and increase funding for people with disabilities.

And for those who want to do something useful right now - please support the group house "Oselya Viry, Nadii and Liyubovi" in Prykarpattia

Photo by the author and from the organization's website