25 years of Independent Living in Sverig
Panel: Models, milestones and achievements by the Swedish Independent Living organisations, Anders Westgerd, 08.11.2008
The Gothenburg co-operative for Independent Living has on many accounts developed in the same way as STIL. I just want to give a short account of GIL’s history. It started 1983 when a man by the name of Rolf Bergfors watched a program on the TV where the philosophy of Independent Living was presented. He was an enterprising man and caught on to this. A few years later, at 1987 a group of disabled individuals gathered in Gothenburg and debated the philosophy of Independent Living and then started a non-profit organization – “A self-determined life”. Through this they got in contact with Adolf Ratzka and STIL and learnt how to operate personal assistance.
In 1989 they received funding from the City of Gothenburg for a 3-year project. A number of service-user or users [“brukare” – a Swedish term sometimes used for recipient of municipal care] received a bag of money to operate their personal assistance themselves. It was far from an easy achievement but met with a lot of resistance from the City of Gothenburg. The politicians were very afraid that the project would run amok and become more costly than what they considered suitable for home care services. Within a short time yet another setback occurred when Gothenburg established district councils. This meant that they had to work against 24 district councils instead of one central council.
A turning point came when they succeeded to find out the costs for home care services and to show that personal assistance was not going to be as expensive. In 1991 they acquired a contract to operate personal assistance. Some fifteen service users received a sum of money to operate assistance. The reform that provided a legal right to personal assistance was enacted in 1994 and after this the number of service users within GIL increased explosively. At present we have 157 service users or users and just above one thousand assistants.
Recently GIL has experienced a change of generations. Slightly younger staff has been recruited. They have seen the user population grow old. Old persons with all due respect – my father is 63 and I like him very much – but you have to get hold of younger persons too. We are working actively and during the last time tried to cooperate a lot with STIL. We try to learn from each other.
Then GIL has a rather unique project – a housing project. This has absolutely nothing to do with institutions or service houses but give our service users options on the housing market, above all in the form of cooperatives. The market for housing is dire today, and in Gothenburg as a city it is rather common to live in housing of cooperative kinds, so we do not think this is strange. This is what I have to say about GIL.
[translated to Engish from transcribed and edited speech in Swedish]