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  4. The history of institutions in Hungary: what can we learn from it for the future?

The history of institutions in Hungary: what can we learn from it for the future?

Agnes Turnpenny, Gábor Petri and Julie Beadle-Brown


Hungary is a country in Central Europe. It is a relatively poor country with high levels of social inequality. There are more than 15,000 people with a learning disability who live in large institutions in Hungary. The Government has started closing the institutions and moving people to smaller group homes in the community.

In my presentation I will briefly talk about the history of institutions in Hungary:

  • when and why they were created?
  • how did institutions change over time?
  • what do they look like?
  • what do we know about the people who live in institutions?

I will also discuss some earlier attempts to change institutions and why they failed. I will also talk about the role of disabled people’s organisations and self-advocates.

I will argue that we need to help people with learning disabilities to tell their stories about life in institutions and moving out of institutions. This should be part of current debates about the closure of institutions. It is not simply about replacing large buildings with smaller buildings.

I will talk about what we can learn from research on the history of learning disability services in other countries. For example:

  • we can learn new methods
  • we can compare people’s experiences
  • it can also help us understand where we are and prepare for challenges.

Finally, I will talk about a project that we did in an institution where people are getting ready to move out to smaller houses.

View the PowerPoint presentation (PPT)

Speaker biographies

Agnes Turnpenny is a researcher at the Tizard Centre, University of Kent. She is originally from Hungary where she has worked with the Government and various charities promoting community-based alternatives to institutions for the past 15 years.

[[[image-0 right]]]Julie Beadle-Brown has worked for over 20 years in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities and in particular on the topic of designing and delivering high quality, community based services. She is currently Reader in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at the Tizard Centre, University of Kent and Professor in Disability Studies at La Trobe University in Melbourne and has led on a number of large scale research and consultancy projects focused on deinstitutionalisation and community living, including the EU funded DECLOC study (2007).

Gábor Petri worked for three years with people with cerebral palsy as a personal assistant and later worked on disability and youth policies in the Ministry of Social Affairs in Budapest. He was director of the national umbrella Hungarian Autistic Society from 2006 until 2010 where he was instrumental to the landmark approval of the Autism Strategy (the second of its kind in Europe) by the Hungarian government in 2008, and for producing the national shadow report on the UN CRPD in 2010. Between 2010 and 2014, he worked on EU policies and international human rights at the European Disability Forum and at Mental Health Europe in Brussels, Belgium. Gabor is currently pursuing a PhD at the Tizard Centre.

Contact us

About the Group

If you woud like to get in touch with the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, please contact:

Liz Tilley 
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

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