Was does the self-help movement contribute? It is the mutual support of people and their families affected by chronic illnesses and disabilities, the joint representation of interests and the independent establishment of supporting offers which counts towards the quality characteristics of self-help work. This self-image includes the fact that self-help organisations for chronically ill and disabled persons and their families work exclusively for the interests of their members.
The independence from outside intervention and the drawing up of separate positions, i.e. neutrality, are determining elements of self-help in associations.
In the last few years, self-help has grown to become a separate "third power" alongside service providers and insurers in order to effectively represent the interests of the patients and people with disabilities. The work of self-help representatives in the bodies of the social security and health systems is recognised today. The knowledge founded on the expertise of those affected is in demand from different sides.
All this is associated with a large amount of time and effort, but also financial expenditure, which benefits the common weal. The funds of chronically ill and disabled people or their families which carry the self-help organisations, are not sufficient to fund the large number of their activities. For that reason, the funding of self-help is a challenge for society as a whole to which the health insurance companies, providers of rehabilitation, Federal and State governments and local authorities ought to contribute. Commercial enterprises also commit to the support of self-help.
The acceptance of funds from patrons and sponsors carries the risk of aligning oneself consciously or subconsciously with their concerns. It cannot be ruled out that these players would deliberately like to influence the opinion-forming processes in self-help.
To counteract this danger, the Federal Association of Families of People with Mental Illness adopted guiding principles for dealing with donations and sponsorship in 2000 and 2012. Since 20032, the Association has accepted the guiding principles developed by its umbrella association, BAG SELBSTHILFE, and subjected itself to the monitoring procedure associated with them.
This was done in order to give the organisation security and to give those actively engaged in self-help a corresponding framework for action.