Deinstitutionalization can be defined as the move away from treatment in long-stay social institutions with less isolated community-based alternatives for the support of social care beneficiaries, in the belief that this new service configuration can lead to better quality of life. Deinstitutionalization in Serbia over the last decade has been stalled by two crucial challenge: the difficulty of establishing alternative sites where beneficiaries can be admitted for intensive, structured observation or comprehensive care in a institution-like setting and the provision of individualized care for social care beneficiaries, who constitute a diverse and heterogeneous group of people.
The SAVE project aimed to build an evidence-base that can inform the national political debate and up-coming reforms on deinstitutionalization, through the analysis of deinstitutionalization policies and processes in other European countries. Throughout the project, special attention was given to highlighting best-practice cases and analyzing their potential for policy transfer in the Serbian context.
The project included a comprehensive review and analysis of protection systems in the areas of long-term care and childcare for four European countries. Each case study was selected to represent one of the four 'worlds' or 'regimes' of European welfare states – Nordic, Southern, Anglo-Saxon and Continental. Furthermore, a workshop and study tour was organizined for a Serbian delegation of experts and stakeholder in long-term care and social protection, in order to to provide an overview of existing policies and trends in delivering health and long-term care services in Austria.
Deinstitutionalization is a gradual process whereby carefully targeted, successive interventions can add up to a system overhaul, rebalancing the core components of the system. The move away from residential institutions crucially hinges on the development of community based alternatives and programs and on the continued support to carers and individuals in need. Similarly, deinstitutionalization is facilitated by early, preventive interventions that can help curb the demand for intensive forms of support. Finally, deinstitutionalization is an investment – efficiency gains and cost savings must be preceded by the commitment of sufficient financial resources in stable streams.