Expertise Centre Independent Living, Belgium, by Maja Wojcik

April 23, 2010

The Expertise Centre Independent Living was launched in February 2009. The centre gathers knowledge about direct payments for the support of disabled people. Direct payments are a powerful tool in the sense that people can dispose of their own budget which enables them to control the care instead of depending on it. Our mission is to become the expertise centre ‘par excellence’ concerning direct payments. Our goal is the empowerment of disabled people so that they may lead an indepen­dent life.


At the end of 2007, Adolf Ratzka (Independent Living Institute, Sweden) and Jan-Jan Sabbe (budget holders association BOL-BUDIV, Belgium) come to the conclusion that there exist interesting practices of personal assistance in different countries. The problem however is that we do not learn from our mutual experiences. And that is how the idea originates to found an expertise centre for independent living.

Jan-Jan Sabbe thinks big and dreams of an Independent Living Center where people can share experiences and find information, expertise, individual services, lobbying services. And his dream comes true. At his own risk he engages an employee who looks into the possibilities for grants. Somewhat later on he calls in the budget holders association BOL-BUDIV which presents a project for an expertise centre and starts lobbying.

When Jan-Jan unexpectedly passes away, BOL-BUDIV decides to let its employee finish the work. In July 2008 the Flemish government and the European Fund for Regional Development each give a grant of 209.580€ to this new initiative. The planning is further elaborated, an additional employee is recruited and later on that year the Expertise Centre Independent Living gradually evolves into a partnership.

What do we do?

The Expertise Centre is a cooperation which is now supported not only by the budget holders association BOL-BUDIV but also by other Flemish organizations like: GRIP, VFG, Focus op Emancipatie and Onze Nieuwe Toekomst. Academics cooperate as counselors in this Expertise Centre. The Expertise Centre is subsidized by the European Fund for Regional Development and the Flemish Minister of Economy for a two-year period.

We do research into PAB (personal assistance budget) and PGB (personalized budget). We closely monitor the evolutions in Flanders. But we also have been looking beyond our own region. We gather expertise about good practices abroad through a network of experts.

All this knowledge is used for political lobbying and is also made public. We disseminate the results of our work via our website, research reports and a newsletter. Recent research reports concern  ‘Direct payments in the care in 8 European countries’, ‘Market forces in the support of disabled persons’ and ‘PGB in the Netherlands’.

The newsletter and website are not only available in Dutch but also in English and partly in French. The idea is to go international. That is why we are closely cooperating with the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL), with the Independent Living Institute in Sweden, with Per Saldo (budget holders association in the Netherlands) and why are actively participating in international conferences (25 years of Independent Living in Sweden, Freedom Drive in Strasbourg, Day of PGB in the Netherlands).

Also, in collaboration with the European Network on Independent Living ENIL, the Expertise Centre Independent Living, organizes a 2-day international conference called ‘Independent Living through direct payments’ on the 3rd and 4th  of June 2010 in Gent (Belgium). The conference focuses on a national and international audience of people with a disability. Apart from us presenting our research results, there will  be a great opportunity for international networking, debating, and exchanging expertise and experiences.



Our focus group consists of all disabled people.

The centre is mainly led and controlled by disabled people or persons who are directly concerned. This also goes for the personnel and the executive committee.

We acknowledge the importance of peer counseling, by which we mean the expertise gathered through daily living with a handicap.

We promote the concept of peer counseling: a mutual exchange of information and advice between disabled people who find or have found themselves in the same situation.

We fight discrimination of disabled people.

We promote working with direct payments.


Direct Payments

We promote working with direct payments. This means:

The budget is personalized and is destined for the disabled person (or his/her representative). The disabled person is thus the budget holder. The subsidies no longer go directly to the care providers.

 Disabled people can freely determine the amount of control they exercise over their own assistance; assistance which corresponds with their needs, abilities, actual living conditions, preferences and desires.

This freedom of choice also includes the right of the disabled person to determine the content of the assistance all by him/herself. The budget holder decides who is to work as an assistant, for which assignments, at what time and where and how the assistance is to take place.

The future

The Expertise Centre Independent Living would like to become an international expertise center on direct payments and situation of disabled persons in different countries. By doing so, we believe we would be supporting people with a disability in their rights for freedom of choice and for a dignified and independent life.

Expertise Centre Independent Living

Kerkstraat 108

9050 Gentbrugge


Tel: +32.9.324.38.77

Fax: +32.9.324.38.79


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