Flanders, Belgium - long queue for personal assistance

“In Flanders, Belgium, 4,000 people are waiting to receive assistance,” says Viviane Sorée, chairperson of Bol Budiv.

Viviane Sorée is chairperson of the organization Bol Budiv, which helps individuals who receive assistance. They provide advice and support to 1,350 people with disabilities living in Flanders. Bol Buiv is a two-year old project that is financed by government funding.
“We have high hopes to be able to continue our work after the project ends.”

First woman in Flanders requiring assistance

Since 2000 Flanders has had a law stating that people are entitled to the service, but the situation varies greatly depending on where people live. “Most common is that those who demand their rights are the ones who receive assistance,” says Viviane Sorée.
“I was the first woman in Flanders who required assistance and that was in 1993.  Seven years later a law was passed, thanks to my efforts and those of others.”

Focus on quality of life, not on money

Politicians and officials often underscore the high cost of assistance, according to Viviane Sorée. They claim it is much more expensive than it really is. 
“They need to understand that it is far more important to pay attention to the level of quality of life for people with disabilities than the level of costs.”

PGB – a new type of support

Previously, people with disabilities in Flanders could live in an institution or receive funds to be able to have personal assistance. Now they are trying a new option called PGB, “Personal gebonden budget,” which translates as “person-related budget.” It is a cash subsidy that the individual receives to purchase the services that the individual chooses.
“PGB allows you to choose to use the subsidy for personal assistance or to purchase the services from the institutions,” says Vivian Sorée.
Those who choose to purchase services from the institutions receive more than twice as much money as those who choose to use the money for personal assistance. Nevertheless, most choose the latter option because it entails greater freedom of choice.

Analysis of living conditions of people with disabilities

The UN Convention is an important tool in the effort to achieve equality and inclusion, according to Viviane Sorée. 
“The Convention underscores the importance of mapping. One of the problems in general is that we don’t know what living conditions are like for people with disabilities. We need to start by taking inventory of different areas to get an understanding of the situation. Then the work can begin.”

Accessibility in Belgium

Viviane Sorée lives in a small village near Ghent, Flanders. She believes that accessibility has greatly improved in recent times. (Ghent is well worth a visit since it was designated as third most beautiful city in the world.) 
“We need stricter laws for accessibility. Politicians don’t take the situation seriously because they believe that accessible construction is very expensive,” says Viviane Sorée.


“I’m happy to hear at STIL’s conference that the movement is growing and getting bigger. Continued expansion requires financial resources. IL needs to have a dialogue with politicians and to receive more funding for its activities.” 
According to Vivian Sorée, IL should not abandon its principles. 
“The last speaker on the first day of the conference spoke about how all movements eventually become part of mainstream organizations. They stop being activists. We need to continue being activists for a long time. We haven’t achieved equality yet and it will take a good long time until we do.”

Viviane Sorée was interviewed by Malin Bernt on Nov. 28, 2008