There are tens of thousands of people with disabilities and people with mental health problems who live at large residential institutions in Hungary. These institutions were originally established to care, cater and provide shelter for people with disabilities. In the past few decades, a fundamental change has occurred in the attitude towards people with disabilities. It is probably best summarised as the transition from the medical approach to a human rights-based, community oriented, social approach. Consequently, the contemporary disability field does no longer view persons with disabilities as people who need charity from society, but as equal members of society with equal rights, who must be supported as much as possible, to the extent required by them to live independently.
The transition from large residential institutions to services promoting community-based care is one of the most relevant results of this substantial change all over the world, particularly in Europe. This process is called deinstitutionalisation or the replacement of residential institutions.
The essence of deinstitutionalisation is to replace large residential institutions with smaller homes or flats located at or near the place of residence of people with disabilities and their inclusion in the ordinary living environment of their community. However, improving living conditions is not the only aim of deinstitutionalisation. Employment of residents with disabilities and organising their daily activities are also of high importance. The general aim of replacing residential institutions is deinstitutionalisation, the inclusion of residents in society, to ensure that they could lead a daily life similar to others. The approach focuses on enhancing the quality of life and respecting the human rights of service users.