What is the disability services reform all about?
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health continues its work to reform legislation on disability. The Disability Services Act and the Act on Special Care for People with Intellectual Disabilities will be integrated into a single act. This act would include a provision setting a maximum age limit of 75 years for special services provided for persons with disabilities.
Ministerial Adviser Jaana Huhta from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health reassures us that older persons with disabilities will not be left to their own devices. She also explains what will happen to transport services for older persons with disabilities, whether the quality of rehabilitative day care for children with intellectual disabilities will deteriorate, and whether the reform is purely about saving money.
Link to the video interview:
Transcript of the interview
Will older persons with disabilities be left to their own devices?
“No, they will not. We already have a Social Welfare Act and an Act on Social and Health Services for Older Persons which guarantee that once persons with disabilities turn 75 and are no longer entitled to the special services, their service needs will be appropriately assessed, and services will be provided for them on this basis.”
What will happen to the transport services for older persons with disabilities?
“In the future, when disabled persons turn 75, transport services will be provided for them as services that support mobility referred to in a Social Welfare Act provision. Services and support may be provided in many different ways, also by means of communal transport, by providing instruction in mobility skills, as a transport service shared with another person and so on. The number of journeys available to a person may change, of course, and 18 journeys a month will no longer necessarily be available. In fact, older persons typically complete around five to six journeys a month. In other words, travel will increasingly be organised at the discretion of the municipality, but a person’s needs for mobility should always be provided for, also the needs of older people.”
Will the quality of rehabilitative day care for children with intellectual disabilities be compromised?
“No, at least not as a result of this reform. The only goal here is to harmonise customer fees charged for day care; in other words, all families will pay the usual means-tested fee for day care in the future. The charge may, of course, be reduced or even waived for justified reasons. However, disability - or in this case, intellectual disability - will in no circumstances be grounds for receiving free day care. If a disabled child needs special support, services and maybe even rehabilitation in day care, of course it can and must still be provided. That aspect will not be affected by the reform.”
Is the disability legislation reform purely about saving money?
“The purpose of the reform is not only to save money, even if the Government Programme does oblige us to find some quite significant savings in the duties of the municipalities. Basically, however, this is about a long-awaited reform whose key principle is promoting the inclusion and equality of persons with disabilities and reinforcing decision-making genuinely based on the needs of a person with a disability. The objective is to preserve the current strong entitlements of people with disabilities that secure their fundamental rights, including the right to sheltered housing, personal assistance and services that support mobility, in other words transport services. The goals also include the development of several services, for example coaching and support as a new type of service, personal assistance and short-term care.”
Interview and video: Kimmo Vainikainen
This is an English translation of a news item originally issued in Finnish on 17.2.2016.