New act will ensure needs-based services for persons with disabilities
The purpose is to consolidate the Act on Services and Assistance for the Disabled and the Act on Special Care for the Mentally Handicapped into one act on special social services for persons with disabilities. The new act would ensure sufficient and appropriate services to all persons with disabilities equally and strengthen their participation and right to self-determination. The act would implement the principles of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Government submitted its proposal on the matter to Parliament on 27 September 2018.
The new act on services for persons with disabilities would safeguard all persons with disabilities access to services in accordance with their individual needs in situations where services based on other acts are not sufficient or appropriate. Services for persons with disabilities would be available for persons who, because of functional restrictions caused by long-lasting disability or illness, need assistance or support indispensably and repeatedly in order to cope in everyday life. Diagnosis would not determine eligibility for services.
The new act emphasises that the person receiving services should be able to participate and be included in the process of assessing his or her need for services as well as in planning and providing the services. The regulation takes account of children's and young people's particular needs.
Persons with disabilities would keep their right to similar services as those currently provided for them, such as support for housing, personal assistance and transport services. Other individual services would include, for example, coaching, support and short-term care, which enable to support persons with disabilities in many different ways. Services for persons with disabilities would remain free of charge.
Families would get individualised assistance at home so that children with disabilities could live at home even in demanding cases. Coaching and support would help young people start an independent life and live in their own homes. Independent life of persons with disabilities would be supported stronger than before.
Personal assistance could still be provided in many ways. There would be detailed provisions on situations where persons with disabilities become employers, and the employer model could only be used with the person's consent. There would be more options for supporting the mobility of persons with disabilities. For example, persons with disabilities could be assigned a car instead of transportation services if they meet certain conditions.
In addition to reforming the content of the previous act on services for persons with disabilities, the reform is aimed at achieving savings. The original savings target, EUR 61 million, has been significantly reduced and is now about EUR 15 million. Savings would be achieved by changing operating practices, not by weakening the services. Additional resources would be allocated for coaching and short-term care, among other things. The Government has proposed that tax deduction based on degree of disability could be abolished as part of the changes relating to the health and social services reform. According to the proposal, this increase in tax revenue would be allocated to the reform of services for persons with disabilities and to the funding of that reform.
The responsibility to organise services for persons with disabilities would be transferred from municipalities to counties in connection with the health and social services reform. Provisions on the organisation of services would be laid down by the Act on Organising Health and Social Services that is currently being discussed in Parliament.
The new act on services for persons with disabilities is scheduled to enter into force on 1 January 2021.
Jaana Huhta, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 2951 63407
Kirsi-Maria Malmlund, Lawyer, tel. +358 2951 63073
Anne-Mari Raassina, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 2951 63405