Seimas Ombudsman expresses concern regarding social care institutions in Lithuania

24 July 2014

Augustinas NormantasThe Seimas Ombudsman Augustinas Normantas expressed concern regarding a huge number of social care institutions in Lithuania. Lithuania has over 250 social care institutions both for children and adults, inhabited by more than 16 thousand people.

In the opinion of A. Normantas, people living in those institutions are considered inferior, i.e. not able look after themselves. Inhabitants of such institutions are not encouraged or are insufficiently encouraged to be self-dependent. Moreover, physical restraint means, such as medical belts and isolation rooms, are still applied.

“These measures degrade human dignity and for this reason in international practice it is required to stop applying them. These measures may be applied only in exceptional cases when a person poses threat to himself and others,” said the adviser of the Seimas Ombudsman Krsitina Brazevič.

The Seimas Ombudsman A. Normantas noted that there is a faulty practice in some social care institutions when a decision regarding application of physical restraint measures is made by the administration of such institutions rather than doctors. Moreover, usese of such measures is not always recorded in a special register.

One more problem observed by the Seimas Ombudsman is lack of employees in such institutions, i.e. psychologists, social workers, nurse assistants and psychiatrists.

“Consultations of specialists are carried out not on a regular basis in social care institutions. The residents of such institutions are not provided with preventive health care programmes financed by the state health system”, stated the adviser of the Seimas Ombudsman after visiting several social care institutions.

It also should be noted thatit is difficult to ensure the individual’s right to privacy in huge social care institutions.

“The life is public in such institutions. Inhabitants of social care institutions rarely have a possibility to be alone and there are cases when they have no privacy in their rooms and even bathrooms, e.g. in some institutions women and men have to wash themselves in the same premises,” stated the adviser.

Finally, not all social care institutions have made environment adjustments for the disabled residents. There is lack of furniture; an emergency call system does not work in some social care institutions and the bedding is being changed less than once per week.

The Law on the Seimas Ombudsmen allows the Seimas Ombudsmen to enter any social care or custodial institution at any time of the day in Lithuania. The Seimas Ombudsmen started implementing national prevention of torture in Lithuania in the beginning of 2014 when the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania adopted the Optional Protocol (OPCAT) to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

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