History of DI

As Vito Flaker wrote in the article A Short History of Deinstitutionalisation (Journal for the Critique of Science, No. 250, the year 2012), the current course of deinstitutionalization in Slovenia can be divided into five phases.

The process began as far back as 1967 with an internationally acclaimed experiment in Logatec, where a group of researchers undertook the transformation of a boys’ nursery school. They wanted to create a different, permissive way of education and establish more democratic relations between the users, who were then called foster children and educators. According to Flaker, researchers and professors from the Institute of Criminology also conducted the first action research in the field at the time.

This was the basis for the second phase, which began with the colony on Raktina in 1976. According to Flaker, the colony has shown that democratic relations are possible without punishment and with the self-determination of children. At that time, ideas about changes in this area began to spread to a larger circle of people. These were the beginnings of a social movement that did not yet speak about the goals of deinstitutionalization.

In the second half of the 1980s, this changed. The Committee for the Social Protection of Madness was established, and among other things, organizing a camp and numerous events at the Hrastovec Institute. Flaker says that in this third phase, the existence of total institutions was first highlighted as a problem. The fourth phase in the 1990s was marked by establishing community services (especially in the NGO sector) and creating the community work knowledge base.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the first housing groups for children from educational institutions were established. In the early 1990s, the Committee for the Social Protection of Madness founded the first housing group for adults with mental distress. The first residents from Hrastovec moved. Later in the 1990s, several NGOs emerged in the mental health field, organizing day centers, housing groups, and field visits. But all this has not yet made it possible to carry out deinstitutionalization, which was still limited to the efforts of activists, non-governmental organizations, volunteers, etc.

Deinstitutionalization entered the public sector from the level of civil society only at the beginning of the 21st century. This phase was initiated in Hrastovec by resettling residents from a special institution to housing groups or dislocated units. Thus, the first systematic relocations from special social welfare institutions, changes in the functioning of community services, and legislation started. Flaker says that this phase can be considered a real deinstitutionalization. Yet, it had stalled when it was supposed to transform into the next, sixth phase – systemic deinstitutionalization. Systemic deinstitutionalization is precisely what the DI team behind this website strives for.

Deinstitutionalization in Europe

Successful examples of deinstitutionalization can be seen in several European countries, where the process has been carried out consistently. One of the first, most successful, and most recognizable deinstitutionalization examples, which is also geographically closest to us, began to occur in the 1970s in Trieste.

Elsewhere in Europe, some countries, such as England, the Czech Republic, and Moldova, have successfully carried out deinstitutionalization processes as well.

To make it easier for other countries, including Slovenia, to achieve this goal, in 2012, a group of experts wrote the Common European Guidelines for the Transition from Institutional to Community Care. The Guidelines were also published in Slovene in 2021.

More about the project “European Group of Experts on the Transition from Institutional to Community Care” can be found at “https://deinstitutionalisation.com/.

The Slovenian translation of the “Common European Guidelines for the Transition from Institutional to Community Care” can be found at: https://di.irssv.si/skupne-evropske-smernice.

Deinstitutionalization in Slovenia

Slovenia is also committed to deinstitutionalization through numerous national and international documents at the European Union level, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratified by Slovenia.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, is considered one of the most essential documents regarding persons with disabilities. It provides a legal basis for recognizing the human rights of persons with disabilities without discrimination.

The most important article for deinstitutionalization (19) acknowledges the right of people with disabilities to live and be included in the community and calls for the establishment of services and other appropriate measures to enable them to enjoy their rights. The state must ensure that all services, facilities, and installations in the community, that the general population uses are equally accessible to people with disabilities and adapted to their needs.

Slovenia committed to this document in 2008. On this basis, it should provide community care to every resident of the Republic of Slovenia, namely in the place or address where a particular person lives.