Innovative Practice 2019 on Independent Living and Political Participation

Housing and person-centred support for persons with intellectual disabilities

The Union of Organizations for Support of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Union SUMERO) – is a non-profit organization that provides housing and person-centred assistance for people with intellectual disabilities to help them stay in their local communities rather than to move into institutions. A maximum of five people live together in each house with support from assistants for daily activities such as shopping, cooking, and working. Between 2011 and 2018, 80 users moved into 25 houses across the country.

“This entire model can be replicated to all parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also to other regional countries which still haven’t initiated the process of deinstitutionalization.”

About the practice at a glance
Name of Innovative Practice:Independent living in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Organisation:Union SUMERO
of Implementation
Bosnia & Herzegovina


  • Local authorities in five regions have adopted the practice.
  • Union SUMERO currently has 35 paid employees providing support to 80 residents.


Following the death of their parents, or when their parents and family are unable to support them, persons with intellectual disabilities often have only one option, and that is to be placed in an institution. In Bosnia and Herzegovina there are six institutions, where residents often have little choice in daily life, fostering isolation and an unrewarding existence.


A person doing his dishes in the kitchen.

Union SUMERO is supporting persons with intellectual disabilities to live together in shared accommodations with support from assistants who support them to carry out daily tasks, and thus enable them to stay in their local communities. Beneficiaries choose who they want to live with in properties of up to five residents, and are supported in making their own choices in daily life, such as shopping, recreation, and work. They are also educated in their rights and self-advocacy, with the aim of recognizing that they are a key part of society.

Union SUMERO began with just one house in 2011 as a pilot project, and by 2018 it had grown to 25 houses with 80 and a sustainable support service. When the project started, the local authorities of only two regions were supportive of the approach, but as of 2018 it was recognized as an official social service in all five regions in which it operates.


The programme is financed 70 per cent by the Ministry for Social Work and regional social work centres, with 30 per cent from foreign funders, including the Open Society Foundation, the US Agency for International Development, The Czech Development Agency, and the Washington-based Institute for Development Impact. Government support covers rent for beneficiaries plus basic life expenses such as food, clothes and furnishings.

Union SUMERO is aiming to change attitudes towards persons with intellectual disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina by bringing them back into society; and it plans to continue this work by cooperating with more regional social work centres and by increasing the number of people housed in supported accommodation.

By sharing the methodology and educating organizations wishing to carry out a similar programme, the practice is suitable for replicating in the Balkans and the former Yugoslavia where similar institutionalization models exist.

New year celebration with the community.


Download factsheet as accessible word