Czech Constitutional Court confirms the right of people with disabilities to accessible and adequate social services

Yesterday, the Czech Constitutional Court ruled in favour of David Vratislav, a 24-year-old young man suing the local authorities for failing to provide him with the social services he needed. The court said that every person, including people with high support needs, has the right to receive adequate social services respecting their dignity.

David Vratislav is a young man with autism and an intellectual disability from a Central-Bohemian town called Rakovník, in the Czech Republic. He was raised by his mother – who has mental health issues – and his grandmother. As he was getting older, his mother and grandmother started to struggle to care for David or to take him outside, so he spent most of his time within the walls of their 2-bedroom apartment. They started looking for appropriate social care services, however, none of the local authorities were willing to help and they were left alone.

The family then decided to fight to get the support David needed so they turned to Czech NGO, “FORUM”, asking for legal help. With Validity’s support, they sued the local authorities in a regional court. The court agreed with David and his family and held that the local authority must provide David with the services he needs. This significant decision has been now upheld by the Czech Constitutional Court which decided, in yesterday’s judgment, fully in his favour.

This is an important judgment because for the first time in the Czech Republic, the Constitutional Court ruled in a favour of a person with a disability who had sued a local authority for failing to provide social services. The Constitutional Court emphasised that every person has an enforceable right to social services and can seek judicial remedy to ensure that authorities comply with their obligations to respect and fulfil this right. As this had not happened for David, the court found, amongst other things, a violation of Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009. Article 19 guarantees that everyone has the right to live and be included in the community.

The Constitutional Court’s decision reinforced a 2014 Supreme Court decision in another case litigated by FORUM and Validity in which the court had guaranteed that people with disabilities have a right to individualised social services. In David’s case, the Constitutional Court went further, requiring local authorities to take reasonable steps to ensure that necessary social services are available so that people with disabilities can maintain their personal autonomy and achieve social inclusion.

Tereza Bartova, a lawyer at FORUM representing David, said: “This is a ground-breaking judgment. For the first time, the Constitutional Court recognized a legally enforceable right to the provision of adequate social services, which, in accordance with Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, must support the independence and dignity of persons with disabilities. The court emphasized that even persons with the most severe disabilities must not be left alone by the state.”

Barbara Méhes, Validity lawyer, added that “this recognition of the individual’s right to accessible and appropriate social services places an obligation on the state, including local authorities, to take concrete and targeted steps to roll out community-based services enabling people with disabilities to live independently in their local communities.”

The Constitutional Court’s judgment is available here in Czech.