In addition to failing to carry out required measures, municipalities also often delay making decisions about requests in order to avoid fines, according to a report by the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen).
Many disabled residents are also subject to degrading treatment due to municipalities’ failure to abide by statutes laid out in Sweden’s law governing the support and services to be provided to disabled people (lagen om stöd och service till vissa funktionshindrade – LSS).
The law is meant to guarantee people with severe psychological and physical disabilities the right to the assistance they need for daily living and, to the extent possible, allow them to lead lives like anyone else.
In a review carried out last year of 70 facilities across the country, the health board found that many disabled residents were made to wait inappropriately long periods of time for the help to which they had a right, write Håkan Ceder and Per-Anders Sunesson of the National Board of Health and Welfare in an article in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
“There are huge gaps between the law’s intentions and the everyday experiences which many with severe disabilities are forced to endure,” they write.
Cases cited by Ceder and Sunesson include a man who had his hands tied behind his back for 25 years so he wouldn’t injure himself and a 14-year-old autistic boy who was locked in a cell with a concrete floor when he became unruly.
In another case, a woman at a facility for people with psychological disabilities wanted her window open and the heater off in her room during the nights.
Despite personnel requiring winter jackets to visit the woman, they only contacted a doctor when the woman was unresponsive and she eventually froze to death.
The report also found that some individuals were physically restrained by force in violation of the law, a severe violation which often comes about as a result of manpower shortages at the facility, according to the authors.
Other findings in the report indicate there are signs that the facilities are looking increasingly like institutions as group homes have been placed together with other operations, a trend in also directly oppose to the intentions of LSS, according to the authors.
Offerings of activities to help keep residents stimulated are paltry and many disabled residents have been forced to share quarters with more than the three to five residents recommended by the health board.
In some facilities, up to twelve people are living together in the same group home.
The authors voice fears that the instances of abuse and substandard conditions is more widespread than has been discovered thus far, and argue that the state must take a more active role in strengthening supervision of the facilities.