Disability Rights Awareness Month: Focus on “Community-Based Care: The Imperatives”

SAFMH News Room

From the 3rd of November to the 3rd of December is Disability Rights Awareness Month. This year SAFMH has elected to focus on community-based care. This is an area that is chronically under-prioritised but all-important as it is a core component of the deinstitutionalisation process to which South Africa has committed itself. To this effect, SAFMH has compiled a press release on the topic. Read it here:

Disability Rights Awareness Month annually runs from the 3rd of November to the 3rd of December 2018. This represents an opportunity to look back on the past, examine the present and envisage the future we want to see in terms of services for and the realisation of the rights of persons with disabilities. The South African Federation for Mental Health, as an NGO focussing on upholding and protecting the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities and intellectual disabilities, has elected to embark on a campaign surrounding community based care and its associated imperatives such as deinstitutionalisation and the need to prioritise services to individuals so-situated and thus to highlight the plight of these individuals.

It has been internationally recognised that people with psychosocial disabilities and intellectual disabilities should only be institutionalised as a matter of last resort. Hospital environments are restrictive, cost-intensive and by necessary implication limit the ability of patients to exercise their rights. It has been proven time and time again that integration/reintegration into communities aids the recovery of mental health care users through empowerment and allowing them, as indicated, to attain more of their rights than they would be able to in a hospital environment and that, with appropriate support, that such individuals can experience marked and profound positive outcomes. While South Africa has committed to a process of deinstitutionalisation, its government has not adequately built up a system of reintegration into communities and there is often simply nowhere for people with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities to go, meaning that they are warehoused in hospitals, sometimes for decades. The lion’s share of community-based care is provided by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), but they are in most cases not adequately capacitated not adequately subsidised by the state. This was one of the factors leading to the disastrous violation of human rights in the Life Esidimeni Tragedy, in which 144 mental health care users lost their lives while residing at NGOs.

Our campaign is entitled “Community Based Care: The Imperatives” and will serve to raise awareness of the following issues:

  • South Africa’s commitment to deinstitutionalisation and the need for community-based care to be suitable, appropriate and to provide an environment conducive to continued recovery of mental health care users
  • The continued lack of accountability from government, specifically the continued state protection of former MEC Quedani Mhlangu, and how failure to implement law and policy contributes to the plight of mental health care users, as was seen during the Life Esidimeni tragedy
  • The need for SASSA to allow people with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities to successfully apply for grants so that these individuals can live in their communities
  • The need to prioritise community-based care
  • Community-based care as a component of the recovery model
  • The need to apportion adequate resources to community-based care
  • Challenges surrounding licensing of NGO’s at community-based level
  • Obligations of government in ensuring community-based care is properly provided, specifically:
    • That a consultative process needs to be undertaken to develop mental health services and resources at community level
    • That the shortfalls in resources needed to adequately facilitate deinstitutionalisation policy requirements must be addressed
    • That NGO’s need to become more widely recognised as key partners in the delivery of mental health services and to be respected and treated as such
    • That government needs to recognise that without the upscaling of and provision of community-based services, South Africa’s commitment towards deinstitutionalisation will never be realised
    • That South Africa requires more consistent and more comprehensive subsidisation of community-based services, with adequate increases and timely payment of subsidies to ensure continuity in community-based mental health service delivery.

The campaign will be constituted of several activities. These include press releases, opinion pieces, a policy brief on community-based care, an open letter to the President on failings surrounding community-based care, a submission to the President on the impact failure to implement the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has on people with psychosocial disabilities and intellectual disabilities and activities on social media. It is our intention to paint a comprehensive picture of the situation in which people with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities find themselves and also to propose solutions for duty-bearers to consider in their work around such individuals. The goal is to inspire a call to action and to catalyse positive change in the lives of people living with these conditions.

It is our hope that our campaign will adequately serve what we view as an extremely important purpose. People with psychosocial disabilities and intellectual disabilities are among South Africa’s most vulnerable and it is integral that their rights are protected. The community-based care imperative is one of the most vital components of recovery and a determinant of quality of life. There is no reason that people in this position should be denied the right to live in their communities and to become accepted and productive members of society. Steps must be taken to facilitate this forthwith and we urge government to take the necessary steps to do so.

Contact details:
Nicole Breen
Project Leader: Awareness and Information
South African Federation for Mental Health
Email: nicole@safmh.org
Tel: 011 781 1852
Cell: 072 2577 938

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