As you know there are different ways of organizing personal assistance in the Finnish model: purchase service, service voucher and an employer model. The Threshold Association favours especially the employer model, because it provides the best starting point for the independent living. Personal assistance has been a subjective right for the disabled people in Finland since 2009.
The situation of the PA in Finland is currently interesting. It's affected by the changes brought about by the upcoming new Disability Act and the personal assistants' strike, demands of which include a better salary for the assistants for working long shifts. The danger is that some employers will be left without help during the strike. They are also unable to influence the salary much, as it is mostly determined by the region (so-called welfare area) that granted the assistance.
The situation has shown that there is still not enough information about personal assistance. It is not understood that it is not nursing work, but that the independent living should be supported. One sees also an effort to control what personal assistance should be used for. Efforts are often made to replace free services with services that one has to pay for, one example being cleaning (can assistant help with normal house cleaning or should you pay for a cleaning service). In the welfare areas, there is a pressure to see the assistance go in the direction of nursing.
A case of discrimination is also topical. A person who applied for social workers’ job in the city of Vantaa would have had a personal assistant, and therefore did not get the job. It was considered that the situation was discriminatory. The district court sentenced two people in the case for the crime of employment discrimination and breach of duty.
On the good side of the new Disability Act, in the case of personal assistance, the obligation to provide advice for the employer would be stronger. The new law also provides more of an opportunity to choose the method of organization of the assistance and, if needed, to refuse the employer model. The value of the service voucher must also be sufficient, which The Threshold Association has paid attention to.
One common problem in Finland is that there are not always enough high-quality assistants available in proportion to the need, or there is no real possibility to decide who will assist you. Even disabled people working as experts may have to miss work due to lack of assistance. Assistentti.info develops operations and training. The days of personal assistance -event will be organized again in the fall. It is also possible to study for a personal assistant degree in Finland.
Independent living and individuality should be preserved in all models of organizing personal assistance. That is what we emphasize with the advice service of The Threshold and Assistentti.info. Cooperation and information exchange with other countries is valuable here. The so-called RAI-instrument panel that many welfare areas would now like to use (to evaluate person’s performative skills/need for assistance) is a scary new development, because as we see it, it is not a suitable instrument for the PA-service.
All in all, the system is not ready and it is subject to attitudinal and structural savings pressures. That is why disabled people themselves are the best developers of the assistance.
The next article in the Disability Rights Defenders Newsletter September 2023 is: