Cuts to disability budget violate constitution, Antwerp court rules

Flanders' decision to grant some people with disabilities only half the care budget they are entitled to violates the Belgian constitution, an Antwerp court ruled on Thursday.

The measure, which affected around 1,100 people on the waiting list for a care budget, was introduced in 2022. The Flemish government wanted to see if people who received only half of their budget would find alternative support elsewhere.

It was sold to parliament as an experiment, said Flemish MP Ann De Martelaer (Groen, Flemish greens). As there was not enough money to give everyone on the waiting list a full care budget, Flanders "wanted to see what would happen if they gave people half," De Martelaer said. "We say you don't experiment on people," she added.

In a ruling on an individual case, the Antwerp labour court has now found that the measure violates the constitution. "The constitution says that everyone has the right to a dignified life," said lawyer Lies Michielsen, who represents several clients affected by the measure.

"It is logical that they do not refuse half a budget, even though they do not agree with it in principle"

Flemish Welfare and Health minister Hilde Crevits (CD&V, Flemish Christian democrats) responded that her administration would study the ruling. She stressed that the measure was not an experiment, but a project "to find out how people fill their budgets and what urgent needs there are". "Nobody is losing their right to a full budget," said Crevits.

Lawyer Timo Lehaen said that while participating was voluntary, some people who were offered the option had been on the waiting list for a budget for six years. "Then it is logical that they do not refuse half a budget, even though they do not agree with it in principle," said Lehaen. 

The ruling in Antwerp only affects the individual who brought the case, but it could set a precedent for all other people with disabilities who have received only half of their budget. 

A care budget is a monthly allowance for people with serious health problems or disabilities. The amount is determined based on a person's individual circumstances.


#FlandersNewsService | © PHOTO BELPRESS

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