In 2012, the Polish parliament, which had a majority of the centrist parties, ratified the CRPD. Despite this, nothing was done to make personal assistance available and regulated at central level. Until 2019, this kind of support was mainly organised only in Poland's largest cities. This was done by NGOs, not controlled by persons with disabilities. The services were funded by European Union funds or city budgets. A report prepared by independent researchers, commissioned by the government's Office for Persons with Disabilities shows that between 2016 and 2020, personal assistance was not implemented fully in accordance with the CRPD and General Comment 5 anywhere in Poland. There was a lack of regulations specifying in which activities the assistant could support the service user. Interruptions in the implementation of services, even lasting several months, were frequent. The users could not decide who would become their personal assistant. Service hour limits were not tailored to individual service users' needs. Children and young people were not able to access personal assistants. In practice, people living in rural areas and small towns were not able to access these services.
In 2019, the conservative government introduced funding for personal assistance from a central Solidarity Fund. Local governments and NGOs are applying for this money. Under the efforts of the Deputy Minister of Family and Social Affairs, who is himself a user of personal assistance, and pressure from the disability community, many positive changes have been introduced to the rules for the implementation of personal assistance. The range of activities that can be done by an assistant now covers most everyday needs of the users. Users can choose their own assistants. Personal assistance can also be used at night and on holidays. Children and young people can benefit from the support. The government guarantees money for insurance for assistants. However, there is still no law on personal assistance. The limits on the hours of service to be used are small and not based on the actual needs of the users. A personal budget mechanism has not been introduced. In the Disabled Persons Support Strategy to 2025, the government announced that 20000 people will use personal assistants in 2025. Meanwhile, a report by the Supreme Audit Office shows that in 2021, only 0.8% of eligible persons used personal assistance services.
In September 2021, the Polish President Andrzej Duda declared that he is aware of the need for a law that will guarantee access to personal assistance for citizens who need it. The group of experts which is responsible for preparing the draft of an act consist of academic scholars in the field of social sciences and the representatives of the Chancellery of the President. Neither the representatives of the disabled person’s organisations nor any individual PA users were appointed to be the group members. For two and half a year the stage of work upon the draft remained silent to the disability community and for the public opinion. Even for the Ministry of Family Matters and Social Affairs. It is worth mentioning that although the Ministry has the same very conservative background as the President, the proposals of the PA system of the further are quite coherent with the CRPD and General Comment 5. Also, the Ministry organised a cross-country yearly pilotage of the proposed PA scheme as well as regular consultations with the PA users.
In the late April 2023 , the basic thesis of the presidential draft was publicly presented. on slides. It has not been published, what is the serious violation of the CRPD. According to it, the PA user will receive the law for a maximum of 100 hours of the service in a month. Persons under 18 years old will be excluded for the right to use PA guarantee by the law. They will have to use temporary projects, as nowadays. The assessment of the user’s needs will be made by the certified career counsellors. The assistants will not be allowed to perform any support described as “medical”, for example to perform an injection or change the bandage. The mechanism of personal budget was not even mentioned.
The Ministry of Family and Social Affairs asked disabled activists to draft a law on personal assistance. We did it in a few days, working days and nights. We were assisted by lawyers from the ministry. The Ministry forwarded our draft to the President's Office, which, however, did not declare further work on the draft. In order to put stronger pressure for the enactment of the Personal Assistance Act, the independent living activists formed an informal coalition with some parents of people with more profound intellectual disabilities. At the beginning of May, under the banner of Protest 2119, we organised a symbolic funeral about personal assistance in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw. There was no response from presidential officials. That is why we will protest again on 9th September. Unfortunately, a significant number of the disabled person’s parents support the development of small institutions. They criticise our efforts publicly, for example in social media. The general public opinion accept the small institution or is not interested in this issue at all.
On 15th October, parliamentary elections will be held in Poland. The left-wing party and the small centrist parties have in their programmes the passing of a law on personal assistance. However, they have not given any details of their proposals. The two largest parties have not yet officially announced their election programmes. Their position on the personal assistance law remains unknown.
* Lukasz Orylski- a disabled man since birth, PA user, a father. Holds PhD in political science, is a career counsellor. A disability activist since 2003. He works, among others, for Sowelo Foundation which provides PA services for people with disabilities who live in the Poznan area. He is the co-author of analysis concerning systemic (non-project) implementation of PA services conducted as part of the commission of the Ministry of Family and Social Policy. An individual ENIL member.
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