Rights of persons with disabilities and older persons in social service facilities are in the focus of the Ombudsman

At present, more than 1000 persons live in social service facilities subordinated to the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Population (MLSPP) under the permanent state guarantee for the purpose of protecting vulnerable groups of the population, including persons with disabilities (PWDs) and older persons, providing social services to them and implementing social and vocational-labour rehabilitation.

The Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman) of the Republic of Azerbaijan always attaches importance to the issue of ensuring the rights of PWDs and the older persons in social service facilities.

Within the framework of the Ombudsman’s implementation of functions as an independent mechanism on promotion, protection and monitoring of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), as well as the fulfillment of functions of the National Preventive Mechanism as designated in the OPCAT, planned and ad hoc monitoring and visits are carried out in the social service institutions without prior notice during the year. 

In the course of those monitoring and visits attended or instructed by the Commissioner, accessibility of conditions for persons in these groups, opportunities for access to nutrition, medical and social services, organization of leisure time, awareness-raising measures and allocation of relevant print materials, installing them in places, where it’s possible to be seen, are monitored; immediate solution of this issue is ensured in case of absence.

In addition, during the individual and collective awareness-raising conversations, PWDs and older persons are explained about possibilities for applying to the Ombudsman via post, online, e-mail, fax, social networking (Facebook, Twitter), as well as 24/7 active hotlines (050 370 98 96 and 012 916). 

At the same time, instructions and recommendations on the prohibition of law violations like any discrimination, inhuman or degrading treatment against those persons, and undertaking urgent measures regarding human rights protection were communicated to the administration and the staff of the facility.

The Ombudsman addressed competent state bodies with numerous proposals and recommendations in order to raise the effectiveness of the protection of the rights of PWDs and the elderly residing in social service facilities at state expenses; on many occasions, necessary actions have been taken for ensuring those appeals. 

Nowadays, it is especially important to increase attention to the rights of PWDs and the elderly in the above-mentioned facilities due to the conditions of special quarantine regime enforced in Azerbaijan, as well as all around the world, aimed at prevention of the mass spread of the new coronavirus infection and strengthening the fight against it.  

In relation to the matter, the Ombudsman Sabina Aliyeva instructed staff members of the Office to carry out visits and investigate the status of ensuring the rights of people with special needs living in social service facilities #1, #2 for children with limited health capacities; psycho-neurological social service facilities #1, #2, #3; social service facility for persons of retirement age; Ganja city territorial social service center for pensioners; Shelter and Social Rehabilitation Facility for persons from vulnerable population groups in the special quarantine regime conditions; operative data on the actions taken for their protection against the above-noted infection has been respectively reported.

It’s noteworthy that in the frames of the measures aimed at combating COVID-19, adherence to the rules and social distancing regime determined by the Operational Headquarters under the Cabinet of Ministers is guaranteed at all the social service facilities as a result of the organizational support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, led by Ms. Mehriban Aliyeva, the First-Vice President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 

Regular strict control is exercised over the sanitary and hygiene in social service facilities in order to protect PWDs as a vulnerable group of population and the older persons as a high-risk group for being infected with new type of coronavirus. Disinfection work is carried out against virus, all the residents undergo regular medical examination and are provided with disinfectants and personal protective equipment; both the residents and the working staff are informed about guidance on the protection against that virus.   

This should be mentioned that the outside contact of the staff members working in such facilities is restricted, and they operate on a long-term shift basis.