Inclusion of children with mental and learning disabilities and children from poor social backgrounds in regular schools is still a problem in the Czech Republic, a survey carried out by the non-profit organisation People in Need and Palacký University in Olomouc has pointed out. Most of the 1,200 head teachers who took part in the survey said they supported inclusion of children with disabilities. However, they said they needed more funds for paying special teachers, psychologists and teacher’s assistants. Teachers also complained about not having sufficient guidance on how to deal with children with special needs. Most disabled children in the Czech Republic are still being relegated to special schools.
In mid-February, Wenceslas Square in Prague will be hosting a special event – a concert of the Tap Tap orchestra. The Tap Tap has travelled the world, performed at the Prague Spring festival and sold out the Prague Opera House, but what makes this band truly unique are its members: most of them are handicapped.
Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček has said around 30 new community mental health clinics should be created in the Czech Republic over the next two years at the cost of around 10 million crowns each, working with an operational budget of around 450 million crowns annually. The minister commented the situation in the health sector on public broadcaster Czech TV. Each of the centres, he said, would employ 20 staff members, including a full-time and part-time psychiatrist, psychologist, medical and social workers. The project, at least in the beginning, will be financed from European funds. Once community centres are up and running, the minister said, the transformation of large psychiatric hospitals could begin. He stressed that it was of utmost importance, as a result of changes, that no patient in need of treatment ended up on the street.
An international human rights group, the Budapest-based Mental Disability Advocacy Center has criticized the Czech Republic over its approach to patients with mental illnesses, the Czech news agency ČTK reported on Friday, quoting the group’s report on the state of psychiatric care in the country. Czech hospitals continue restraining their patients and placing them in caged beds, according to the report that is to be presented in Prague on Monday. The findings are based on visits to nine out of 26 Czech hospitals and psychiatric wards; the rest reportedly denied access to the group’s experts, or ignored their requests. In 2003, the Czech Republic came under international criticism over the use of caged beds which were then prohibited by the Czech government.
A leading Czech scientist has created uproar with an article in a journal suggesting that pregnant mothers who expected their babies would have severe disabilities should undergo abortions. Miroslav Mitlöhner has in the aftermath of the article resigned as director of a university institution and member of an advisory council at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Mitlöhner in an interview said afterwards that some of the comments attributed to him were quotations from other authors but stood by the overall contents of his article.
Over a million people in the Czech Republic are in some way disabled. In addition to the health problems this entails and the social stigma associated with physical and mental disabilities, their chances of finding work are slim. A foundation that helps people with disabilities find jobs has launched a unique project aimed at breaking down existing prejudices and giving more people with disabilities a chance on the labour market. Filip Zoubek, who is project manager, explains that the Heartwrenchers campaign is based on give-and-take.
Parents of severely handicapped children who are old enough to qualify for independent state support are still obliged to contribute to their maintenance, according to a ruling made by the Constitutional Court on Wednesday. It was hearing a complaint from a woman seeking financial support from her estranged husband for their 30-year-old daughter, who she looks after. The case will now be heard again by the Prague Regional Court, which previously ruled in favour of the father.
The Council of Europe last week released a report criticizing the Czech Republic for the way it treats people with mental disabilities. The criticism targeting the living conditions and rights of this most vulnerable segment of the population is not the first of its kind. The Czech authorities have previously come under fire for using caged beds in mental institutions. On a fact-finding visit to the Czech Republic, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks went further, arguing that many of the patients in mental institutions
Three of six towns in the area of Česká lípa have rejected a plan by the region of Liberec to build new homes for mentally-disabled clients. Under the proposal, 80 mentally disabled women from two current, isolated facilities would move into ten buildings across six towns. The project is to cost 150 million crowns. Stráž pod Ralskem, Okna and Zákup have, however, have all come out against. The mayor of one of the towns, Zákup, told news website idnes that more than 500 people had rejected the idea in a petition - coming out against 24 clients being housed in the town centre. According to the mayor, the women would be unable to integrate within the greater population of less than 3,000; he cited a study that suggested the maximum number was six. The region of Liberec has been preparing the project for two years: the aim is specifically to help mentally-disabled persons reintegrate within broader society, while also providing new jobs for assistants.
The head of the Czech National Council of Disabled People has filed a criminal complaint against Health Minister Leoš Heger over what it deems to be unlawful steps in health care reform. Chairman Vaclav Krása writes in the complaint that the recent raising of patients’ fees pay for hospital stays is unlawful and unconstitutional, as is the introduction of paid extra care. The council suspects Heger of abuse of power and harming other people´s rights, implementing controversial direct payments by patients in spite of the fact that the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms (part of the Czech constitution) guarantees free health care and medial aids for free to Czech citizens and creating unequal conditions of people´s access to health care.