Legislative and financial basis
The legislative basis for Personal Assistance at the Workplace (PAW) are the special guidelines to promote Personal Assistance at the Workplace that have been in force since 1st of January 2004. They aim at securing a qualitative as well as a quantitative increase of participation at the general labour market or for completing a vocational training (includes higher education and studying at a University in this context) of those people with disabilities that need personal support to structure their working life resp. their vocational training in an independent and autonomous way.
For the year 2004 the Federal Government provides € 3 Millions in the framework of the package for economic growth. There´s no individual right to promotion by this programme. About 150 people have been using PAW in Austria so far.
Eligibility and needs
PAW is currently being granted for women and men who receive long-term care benefit from level 5 onward (compare Best Practice Austria 2). For those receiving long-term care benefit on level 3 or 4, eligibility needs to be especially explained. Using PAW is only justified if an impairment cannot be compensated by technical aids.
Acitivites of Personal Assistants at the workplace can be among others
However, supportive acitivities in content or in subject for producing results on a job or on a vocational training are not classifiable as Personal Assistance at the Workplace.
Limitations for using PAW are as follows: young people from the 9th form onward can use PAW the earliest for their integration to vocational training; people with learning disabilites or psychiatric disorders need to receive long-term care benefit from level 3 onward to use PAW, but this is rarely the case. There are no time limits for PAW.
To assess the user´s needs of support and to further acompany the process of Personal Assistance at the workplace a so called assistance conference becomes established. Represantatives of the relevant Federal and Länder (nine Austrian provinces) authorities as well as of the service point for assistance belong to this assistance conference. On the basis of the user´s and the service point´s experiences the needs for assistance are ascertained, they can constantly be adjusted. Based on the first experiences made in 2004 an assessment scheme that can be well administered shall be developed.
Coverage and accountability
All needs for assistance that occur during vocational training, university studies or a job due to a disability shall be covered by PAW.
Regular employment contracts must be signed with the personal assistants. They are paid according to the collective agreement of the professional association of employers in heatlh- and social service professions in Austria. Assistants can either be employed by the service point for assistance or by the users themselves. In any case, regular reports must be given to the funding agency, the suitable use of the paid funds must be proved.
Service delivery, training and support of users
PAW is oriented towards the individual needs of the users and in principle does not require a particular training. Users can call on the support of the service point for assistance to organise their PAW. A service point for assistance shall be established in each of the Länder, suitable providers shall be found among people concerned, if possible. The service points for assistance have the following tasks:
The users train their personal assistants themselves. Until now, information on PAW has been provided by Federal agencies and Centers for Independent Living but this is not at all sufficient.
It´s usually not difficult to find Personal Assistants. Personal assistants are not allowed to carry out any kind of medical tasks.
As far as it´s possible to evaluate PAW after this short period, based on the experiences of the Vienna Association for Personal Assistance we can state the following advantages and disadvantages:
For the first time in Austria the term “Personal Assistance” is officially embodied in the guidelines to promote Personal Assistance at the workplace. Though the guidelines cover just one area of life, within this area they describe an integrated and comprehensive concept of Personal Assistance that is not based on a medical but on a social paradigm and that´s oriented towards equality. Personal Assistance is delivered according to the individual needs of the users, it´s independent of income or cause of disability.
We evaluate the assistance conference very positively, at the Vienna Association for Personal Assistance we agreed on the following regulations with the funding agency for putting it into practice: the assistance conference comes together four times a year, users advocate for themselves and can be accompanied by one or two reliable persons. Thus, disabled women and men speak for themselves, they are equal partners being supported by the service point for assistance. As selfadvocacy is not provided for in the guidelines, we´re claiming to add it.
We find the orientation towards the level of long-term care benefit very problematic, it gives the medical paradigm too much importance for the assessment of eligibiltiy. Therefor many people with less severe disabilities might possibly not come to use PAW. This also applies to people with learning disabilities or psychiatric disorders as well as to deaf people.
It´s a disadvantage that Personal Assistants are paid very badly, they receive less than € 7,42 gross salary per hour as employees. The hourly rate must definitely be raised.
Those users that employ their assistants themselves and without support of a service point for assistance do not receive any fund to cover their additional costs for administration. This burden should be removed by a reimbursement of these costs.
Until now, only disabled people who work at least 20 hours per week as employees have received funding for PAW. But those disabled people who work less than 20 hours per week as well as those who have atypical jobs or are free lancers, too, should be entitled for PAW as this corresponds to the general transition to flexible working hours.
The guidelines emphasize that organisations of disabled people should be entrusted with establishing service points for assistance as a matter of priority. Here, self critisism is necessary because it turns out that in some of the Länder there are no sufficient structures of the IL-movement or comparable initiatives that are able to build up service points for assistance. At the moment, there are not enough disabled people that have the courage to spread and promote the model of Personal Assistance by managing a service point for Personal Assistance. Yet it´s high time that we stop moaning and take charge of our own lives.
Mag. Dorothea Brozek, manager of the Vienna Association for Personal Assistance and user of Personal Assistance
Phone: ++43 (0)1 798 53 55