Italy condemned by the UN Committee for lack of support to family caregivers of persons with disabilities

Geneva - Rome, October 4, 2022

In an unprecedented decision published on October 3, 2022, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities upheld the application lodged by a caregiver and her assisted family members, who complained that Italy lacked an adequate legal framework for the protection and assistance of family caregivers. The applicants were represented before the Committee by DSC Associate Tenant Professor Andrea Saccucci, who acted upon the initiative and with the support of the National Coordination of Families with Disabilities (CONFAD), formerly National Coordination of Families with Serious and Very Serious Disabilities, at the time chaired by one of the applicant.

The UN Committee dismissed the inadmissibility objections raised by the Italian Government and found that the Italian Government has committed multiple breaches of its international obligations under the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

After recalling that the full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of the right to live independently in the community requires the adoption of appropriate legislative, administrative, financial, judicial programmatic and promotional measures, the Committee emphasized the essential role played by family caregivers in the realization of this right and the consequent need to provide adequate support services, including financial support, to such individuals in the interests of the persons cared for.

The Committee found that the various measures taken to date by the Italian authorities in favor of family caregivers are insufficient. According to the Committee, these measures do not guarantee an adequate level of support for caregivers, such as, for example, reimbursement of expenses, access to housing, affordable care services, a subsidized tax regime, flexible working hours, and recognition of caregiver status in the pension system.

In addition to increasing the use of institutionalised care for people with disabilities, this situation is likely to create situations of social and work marginalisation, extreme poverty, and discrimination "by association", especially against women.

In conclusion, the Committee, acting under article 5 of the Optional Protocol to the 2006 Convention, found that Italy has failed to fulfil its obligations under Articles 19 (Living independently and being included in the community), 23 (Respect for home and family) and 28 (2) (c) (Assistance in situation of poverty), read in conjunction with Article 5 (Equality and Non-Discrimination) of the Convention, for the author’s daughter and partner, as well as its obligations under article 28 (2) (c), read in conjunction with article 5, for the author herself.

"We are very satisfied - Andrea Saccucci states - After years of waiting, the need to provide a coherent and effective legislative framework of protection and support for family caregivers has finally been recognized at the highest international level and can no longer be ignored by the Italian Government and Parliament". "The decision of the UN Committee adds to the repeated warnings of our constitutional Court, which has long stressed that the care of persons with disabilities in the family setting is in any case preferable and more in line with the constitutional principles and requires the adoption of supportive measures, including economic ones, in favour of family members who play this essential role of assistance".

The UN Committee's decision establishes the Italian State's obligation not only to ensure that the claimants receive adequate compensation and access to individualized support services, but also to take measures to prevent similar violations in the future, by amending its legislation, redirecting its resources from institutionalisation to community services and increasing financial support to enable people with disabilities to live independently and to have equal access to services, including personal assistance and support for family caregivers.