Switzerland introducing direct payments for personal assistance

The text is translated from German. Original text: Martin Ladstätter Sept. 8, 2011 BIZEPZ INFO "Schweiz wird lendesweit Assistenzbeitrag einfüren"

Switzerland is on the brink of a breakthrough: it will offer nationwide direct payments for personal assistance beginning in January 2012. Over the next few years, 3,000 people with disabilities are expected to receive this assistance benefit.

Now it is ready. In the first set of measures at the sixth IV revision the Federal Parliament voted yes. That means “it’s as good as done,” says Katharina Kanka, from FAssiS (Fachstelle Assistenz Scweiz)  in a BIZEPS interview, adding: “The law has passed, the Federal Council just has to adopt the regulation by January 1, 2012. “Then the personal assistance benefit will be available throughout Switzerland.” The activists are now celebrating this victory.

Festival September 14 2011

The activists will celebrate this major accomplishment in Berner Kocherpark on September 14, 2011. (Organizers: FAssiS(Fachstelle Assistenz Scweiz), ZSL Centrum för Independent Living and CAP-CONTACT). The site has historical significance. “There was a protest camp here in 1997 against forced relocation to care facilities, which raised a ruckus throughout the country,” recalls Catherine Kanka. “Since then, those of us who are affected have worked to obtain an assistance benefit in order to live and work outside institutions by hiring our own personal assistants,” said Kanka, who explains: “Thanks to bipartisan support from well-known MPs in the Federal Parliament and good collaboration with the authority responsible for social insurance, the assistance model will be implemented across the country in 2012. We want to celebrate this milestone together!”

What has been achieved?

“The assistance benefit is being implemented for people with disabilities who need help with daily chores and who do not live in care facilities. They themselves or their legal representative will be able to employ personal assistants,” said Kanka in a BIZEPS interview.

A few more points remain to be negotiated. “The Federal Council Regulation sets out the conditions for minors and adults with impaired capacity who are also entitled to the assistance benefit,” said Kanka and lists three possible criteria, at least one of which must be met: “Integration in the school/workplace (i.e. attend a regular school or work in the open labor market), live in a private household (not with their parents forever), a major need for help (relief for relatives).”

What does the regulation cost and how many people will it affect?

The proposal is cost neutral, according to the chairperson of Fassis, “because the money will be saved elsewhere – especially for care facilities.” A budget of CHF 50 million is expected. “The benefit will be paid in addition to existing benefits, such as disability benefits or nursing/care benefits from traditional suppliers,” explains Kanka.

In Switzerland, “37,000 people currently receive a disability benefit who are therefore theoretically entitled to the assistance benefit.” Of these individuals, 17,000 adults live in a private apartment and about 10% of them (about 1,000 people) are considered to be suitable for the pilot project and will want the assistance benefit and associated employer model. “Demand is likely to increase in the coming years, probably to 3,000,” she believes.

When asked when she first realized that the assistance benefit would  become reality, she replied: “Three years ago, when the evaluation of the pilot project came and the Federal Council mandated the federal agency responsible for the project to formulate a proposal for implementation of the assistance benefit as part of the budget process.”