Sunday, August 31, 2008

Finland municipalities now responsible for providing personal attendant services

From YLE in Finland:

A change to Finland's disability policy will force municipalities to wholly organise personal assistant services for seriously handicapped inhabitants. Disabled persons will no longer be forced to act as employers to their assistants.

Seventy municipalities in Finland are, however, unable to provide personal assistants for handicapped inhabitants. Social workers and officials have also struggled with defining the qualifying criteria for personal assistant services.

Under the old system handicapped persons were forced to employ assistants and thus had employers' obligations. Those employing assistants were entitled to subsidies from the municipality.

Some 15,000 people need personal assistants to keep them living at home and not in institutions. There are, however, only enough assistants in the country for 10,000 disabled persons. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health says a lack of resources can't obstruct the provision of services that people are legally entitled to. The legislative change takes effect in September.

Neighbouring Sweden is also overhauling legislation on personal assistants for the disabled. Sweden has actively recruited immigrants to work with the disabled -- a model that Finland is also planning to test.