Ministry of Social Affairs and Health instructs municipalities to continue rehabilitative work in alternative ways
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health urges municipalities to develop alternative ways of carrying out rehabilitative work in cooperation with the third sector and other operators during the coronavirus epidemic.
The purpose of the Ministry's guidance issued on 8 April is to ease municipalities’ uncertainty about what kind of rehabilitative work can be carried out during the epidemic. Many municipalities closed their facilities for rehabilitative work activities when the Government banned gatherings of more than ten persons on 16 March 2020.
On 20 March, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health issued guidelines to municipalities on the operation of primary health and social services, including general guidance on rehabilitative work carried out under the responsibility of the municipalities. According to the guidance, the obligation to organise health and social services continues even in emergency conditions, and the municipalities must ensure their clients’ right to receive services in accordance with individual needs.
Alternative ways of carrying out rehabilitative work must be arranged for clients if they so wish
Because of the risk of infection, group activities arranged in the same physical space are not possible now. Municipalities must make every effort to find alternative ways to continue rehabilitative work even in emergency conditions if the client so wishes.
During the coronavirus outbreak, rehabilitative work may include, for example, online coaching, remote tasks, individual guidance, and activities in workplaces where there is no risk of infection. The introduction of new forms of action must always be carried out in agreement with the client participating in rehabilitative work.
The importance of social welfare is emphasised under emergency conditions
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health points out that rehabilitative work is not only a service promoting employment, but also a social welfare service. The municipality must at all times ensure that no one's right to indispensable care and subsistence is jeopardised.
The role of social welfare services in assessing this issue is particularly important, as some of the clients of rehabilitative work may be people in need of special support or otherwise at risk of social exclusion.
As the organiser of rehabilitative work activities, the municipality may suspend these activities during the outbreak if it is unable to organise them in alternative ways. Before doing so, the municipality must notify the TE Office and inform the client. Once rehabilitative work has been suspended, the clients will not lose their benefits and their social assistance will not be reduced.
In addition to rehabilitative work, the new guidance is suitable for other social welfare services carried out as group activities if in the coronavirus situation has made it difficult to continue the activities. Such services may include, for example, group-based activities in social rehabilitation or activities related to work for people with disabilities.
The recommendations of the guidance are valid until 31 July 2020 and they relate only to the special arrangements during the coronavirus epidemic.
- Ministry of Social Affairs and Health guidance for municipalities on how to implement rehabilitative work and certain social welfare services during the COVID-19 epidemic (updated 25 May 2020, in Finnish only)
Susanna Rahkonen, Ministerial Adviser, [email protected]