Italy: Lack of financial and social support to family of people with disabilities amounted to human rights violation, UN Committee finds


5 October 2022

In a pioneering case, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has found that Italy’s failure to provide individualised support services to a family of persons with disabilities was discriminatory and violated their rights to family life, to live independently and to an adequate living standard.

The Committee published its Decision today after examining a complaint submitted by an Italian national, M.S.B., who is a caregiver to her daughter and partner, both of whom are persons with disabilities and require continuous care. M.S.B. filed the petition for herself and on behalf of her daughter and partner, claiming that their rights under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had been violated.

“This case is a breakthrough because the Committee recognised the violation of a family caregiver’s right to social support, in addition to the rights of persons with disabilities”, said Markus Schefer, the Committee’s rapporteur on communications.

“This is also the first case that the Committee has examined claims of ‘discrimination by association’ as M.S.B. was treated less favourably because of her role as a family caregiver of persons with disabilities.” “Mindful of the purpose of the Convention to protect persons with disabilities”, he added, “the Committee took a cautious approach.”

To care for her daughter and partner while earning income to support the whole family, M.S.B. worked from home via telecommuting from 2013 to 2017 until she was no longer allowed to continue her work remotely.  Because the Italian legal system does not provide any legal protection to family caregivers regarding pension for assistance, indemnity or sickness insurance, M.S.B. was not entitled to receive any compensation or economic support.

M.S.B. then brought her case to the Committee, alleging that the lack of legal recognition and support leaves her, as a family caregiver, and her family, at risk of negative and heavy consequences to their health, finances, and personal and social life.

The Committee concluded that the right of family members may be linked to the protection of persons with disabilities, under certain conditions. “The Committee stated that it was aware of instances in which the rights of persons with disabilities cannot be realised without the protection of family caregivers, and it concluded that in the narrow context of article 28 (2) (c), the Convention recognises the right of family caregivers to State protection provided that this recognition is indivisibly linked to the protection of the rights of family members with disabilities,” Schefer said.

The Committee also found that the failure by the State party to provide the family with adequate support, including assistance with disability-related expenses, adequate training, counselling, financial assistance and respite care, amounted to a violation of the rights of M.S.B.’s daughter and partner under the Convention.

The Committee urged Italy to provide adequate compensation to M.S.B. and her family, take appropriate measures to ensure that M.S.B.’s family has access to adequate individualised support services, and prevent similar violations in the future.

The full decision is now available online.