On 30 September, the Seimas Committee on Human Rights (the Committee) got acquainted with the material of the investigation of the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office in the social care homes of Aknysta and Skemai. The investigation was presented by Augistinas Normantas, the Seimas Ombudsman and Head of the Office and Vytautas Valentinavičius, the Head of the Human Rights Division of the Seimas Omnudsmen’s Office. Since 2014, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office is a national prevention body that inspects over 400 places of detention, including social care homes.
After assessing the risks of human rights violations during quarantine as well as taking into account the calls of residents and their relatives, the Seimas Ombudsman together with the Human Rights Division organized educational and investigative measures. A Facebook group was created to share issues of concern; a seminar was organized to help ensure a sense of security for people during quarantine; moreover, investigations were conducted in social care homes with an aim to identify systemic problems.
Mr. Normantas noticed that while performing investigations in the social care homes during the quarantine, the problems that had already been clarified and identified had become apparent. In the opinion of the Seimas Ombudsman, disregard for the privacy of residents and their individual needs is a disrespect for human dignity. A. Normantas also noticed that when he started visiting social care homes and asking about the necessity to knock the door before entering a resident’s room, he was not understood by the administration, saying that “it is a care home, after all”. However, the Seimas Ombudsman emphasizes that the residents of social care homes have all natural human rights, which must be followed and the dignity of these people must be unconditionally respected. It should be noted here, that today the reactions to the recommendations provided by the Seimas Ombudsman are already more appropriate, and efforts are being made to remedy the situation. The latest study had again raised issues that need to be addressed.
Talking about persons with reduced mobility, the Seimas Ombudsman noted that safety is one of the most important things. According to him, an emergency service system must be available in each room. However, in many rooms there is either no system or the remote control is plugged behind a cabinet where it is inaccessible to a disabled person. The Seimas Ombudsman emphasized that a person with a disability cannot be accommodated in a room that is difficult for him/her to access with a wheelchair and which he/she cannot leave on his/her own. The Ombudsman also spoke about the need to respect human privacy, i.e. safe place for personal belongings, possibility to hang a photo or picture in one’s room; possibility to be undisturbed (to lock the door); as well as protected and respectful environment for hygiene and medical procedures is a prerequisite for human dignity.
Mr. Valentinavičius spoke about the lack of a personal attitude towards the resident. Attention was also drawn to the implementation aspects of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. According to V. Valentinavičius, there are a lot of violations in the provision of services in Skemai social care home, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is disregarded here and social care plans are made without assessing individual human needs. Moreover, problems are solved neglecting humanity – the service is not provided to a resident, he is simply locked instead.
Vilma Augienė, Deputy Minister of Social Security noted that the investigation is very important in improving the situation in social care homes. In her opinion, the development of new services overshadows the provision of existing services. The Chairman of the Committee on Human Rights Valerijus Simulikas thanked the Head of the Seimas Ombudsman’s Office and the people who conducted the investigation for the work and the information provided to the Committee and emphasized that only by raising problems they can be solved, thus preventing violations of human dignity.