The European Day of Persons with Disabilities: Empowering persons with disabilities through skills

Five persons with disabilities huddle around the camera, with their arms around one another. In the background there is a grey sky and green trees. On the top left, the person is wearing a light blue T-shirt. On their right, the person is wearing a deep blue T-shirt. Next to them, the person is wearing a bright yellow T-shirt. Next to them, on the bottom centre of the image, the person is wearing a maroon T-shirt. The person on the bottom left of the image is wearing a lilac T-shirt.

On this European Day of Persons with Disabilities, we take the opportunity to spotlight the importance of skills in the disability sector.

On this European Day of Persons with Disabilities, EASPD calls for the European Union to maintain the momentum that has been created during the European Year of Skills, and to continue to promote the acquisition of skills to empower people with disabilities post-2023. This focus on boosting skills should not only be for persons with disabilities, but also for policymakers and disability services' staff to facilitate the continued development and application of support services, which contribute to the full implementation of the UNCRPD.

Held on 30th November and 1st December, the European Day of Persons with Disabilities 2023 brings together policymakers, NGOs, service providers, experts, and disability advocates to discuss the rights of persons with disabilities at EU level. With 2023 being the European Year of Skills, the event is a key opportunity to focus on increasing the skills of persons with disabilities and, in turn, to promote their inclusion in the labour market and community.

With this, EASPD stresses the importance of inclusive education and training opportunities for persons with disabilities, including acquiring digital skills and soft skills. EASPD also underlines the importance of adequate programmes and services that enable persons with disabilities to find their training path. Here, we look to the many promising practices that already exist, including those from our members, such as KVPS’ Poweria! project or Chance B’s job placement service.

On top of focusing on persons with disabilities, EASPD recognises the urgency of equipping staff in disability services with the right knowledge and skills to be able to provide person-centred support that contributes to the full implementation of the UNCRPD. The social care and support services sector must evolve to meet societal and technological changes, and staff should be enabled to adapt to developments that impact their working environment through life-long-learning opportunities.

This upskilling and consistent training of staff goes hand in hand with the transition of service providers towards community-based and person-centred forms of care and support. Explaining the importance of staff training and upskilling in this transition, EASPD’s Secretary General, Thomas Bignal, says, “Staff, and the way in which staff members provide support, are crucial for the quality of service provision. We should thus ensure that we invest in frequent staff training in the use of person-centred approaches and co-production methods to provide empowering, community-based support to those who need it.”

EASPD thereby appreciates the European Commission's efforts to address skills needs among employees in the social services sector. Their commitment is particularly clear in their focus on skills in the European Care Strategy and co-funding of key initiatives, such as the B-WISE project and the Partnership for Skills in Long-Term Care. The former has a focus on digital skills in the Work Integration Social Enterprises sector, with the latter focusing on digital and person-centred skills of long-term care workers.

Lastly, we should not forget those who make and implement policy. They, too, should have the knowledge and skills to ensure policies address the rights of persons with disabilities, and be trained on how to practically implement the UNCRPD and human rights-based principles. This includes EU, national, and local policymakers, as well as authorities in charge of local planning and distributing funds.

EASPD looks forward to continuing the momentum on skills by working with its members, partner organisations, and the European Union, in order to boost the skills of persons with disabilities and to create empowering support services.

For more information, please contact:

Thomas Bignal
Head of Policy  
+32 2 233 77 23 

Note to editors:
The European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities is a non-profit European umbrella organisation, established in 1996, and currently representing over 20,000 social and health services for persons with disabilities. EASPD advocates effective and high-quality disability-related services in the field of education, employment and individualised support, in line with the UN CRPD principles, which could bring benefits not only to persons with disabilities, but to society as a whole.

The information contained in this publication does not necessarily reflect the official position of the European Commission.