Flanders’ disability budget plan will cut waiting times but ‘leaves thousands out in cold’
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Flanders’ disability budget plan will cut waiting times but ‘leaves thousands out in cold’

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Flanders will be allocating around €1.6 million to give perspective to people with disabilities, but according to one organisation fighting for the rights of these people, the government is still failing to provide a long-term plan.

Around 2,700 people with an urgent need for care will now receive financial aid more quickly, which is a good thing, according to the Independent Living’ organisation (Bijstandsorganisatie Onafhankelijk Leven), but it emphasised that more needs to be done.

“There is still no perspective for almost 15,000 people on the waiting list,” its director Dave Ceule told Belga news agency.

On Wednesday, Flemish Public Health Minister Wouter Beke announced his budget plan which aims to give disabled people with the most acute care needs a personal budget within 18 months. At the moment, they could be facing a wait of about three years before receiving financial aid.

Beke recognised that this will not mean that all demands of people with disabilities will be met, but that the government “remains ambitious”.

“We have to be honest: despite the fact that no other Flemish Government in its history has invested so much in people with a disability, we will not be able to fully meet the demand for care with the available budget,” he said in a press release.

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“Through a combination of extra resources and reforms, we are looking for perspective for as many people as possible,” he added.

According to Beke’s cabinet, the average waiting time for people with the most acute care requests would, under the previous budget, increase from 2 years and 8 months in 2019 to 6 years and 4 months in 2024.

A long-term plan

The budget plan will, for now, give perspective to the almost 2,700 people in priority group 1 (there are three groups, and every person is assessed based on how urgently a personal budget is needed), but it means “multiple other people remain out in the cold,” Ceule warned.

“They too are entitled to a dignified life and we expect a solution for them in the short term,” he added, urging the government to come up with a more sustainable and long-term plan.

Ceule explained that the number of people with disabilities grows by 3% every year, meaning that “while cases on the current waiting list have not yet been resolved, it continues to grow.”

Beke pointed out that the government is looking for solutions, and that these “do not necessarily have to result in a person-following budget, but can also be found in other forms of support.”

“Together with the representatives from the sector, we are looking into the options that can be developed for priority group 2,” Beke added, whilst together with priority group 3, it will be investigated whether and what support may be able to provide relief more quickly.