TALLINN - The Estonian government on Thursday endorsed amendments to the Social Welfare Act and other laws that will contribute to better provision of welfare assistance and exempt grandchildren from the obligation to maintain their grandparents and grandparents from the obligation to maintain their adult grandchildren.
"This is a significant change in the system of long-term care, which aims to reduce the burden of care extending across generations and enable the person in need of care to live in their home for as long as possible," Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo said in a press release.
While local authorities already have a duty to help their residents, the draft specifies that in the future they will also have to identify the support needs of the person caring for a member of next of kin and organize the provision of assistance.
"Caring for a loved one is difficult for the family -- mentally, physically and financially. The sooner the carer gets support, the more likely they are to be able to return to work and avoid potential mental health problems," Riisalo said.
As a result of the amendments, local governments will have the right to receive an overview of children living in their area for whom a degree of disability has been sought and adults who have been deemed as having a disability.
The purpose of creating data exchange between the state and local governments is to notice the need for assistance of every child, family and adult as early as possible and to create solutions that enable timely assistance and prevent the aggravation of problems. At the moment, a person must turn to the local government for assistance themselves.
In order to increase the well-being of children, the draft also specifies the tasks of the state and local governments in assisting sexually abused children, for which "child houses" have been established in different regions of Estonia.
The state will provide local governments with additional resources on an annual basis for the provision of various social services to children with disabilities.
The bill will make the use of support more flexible to better support the coping of a child in need, to prevent the worsening of the need and to reduce the burden of care on the family. Families will no longer necessarily have to apply for a disabled status for their child to receive supported services.
In addition, according to the draft, a local government social worker must have a professional higher education or a professional certificate for a social worker instead of any previous higher education.
A social worker's work is critical, often life-changing, and their actions need to be compliant with legislation, they must know the theoretical background to their work, know best practice and have an ethical value base.
The amendments also continue to decouple the right to receive services from the severity of disability. Receiving supportive special care services has been decoupled from the severity of the disability for many years and in future the same will apply to round-the-clock special care services. As a result of the amendment, the prerequisite for receiving the service is no longer severe or profound disability, but the assessed need for assistance and support.