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Siarhei Drazdouski: The state is “earning money” on the people with disabilities

23.12.2015  |  Society   |  Aliaksei Jurych,  EuroBelarus
Siarhei Drazdouski: The state is “earning money” on the people with disabilities mold.su

The budget for 2016 keeps this year’s situation for the disabled the same.

Everyone is already fed up with the talks about the “socially-oriented state”; well, the authorities also seem to diverge from the “charity” rhetoric. The state budget for 2016 proves that.

Which policy towards one of the most unsecure population strata – the disabled – have Belarusan authorities chosen in time of the crisis? Does the budget-2016 provide for the interests of the persons with disabilities?

Siarhei Drazdouski, the coordinator of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, told “EuroBelarus” Information Service about the way that the “socially-oriented state” builds its policy for protecting people with disabilities.

- Traditionally, persons with disabilities are those, who get disability pension. The average pension of persons with disabilities varies between 2 575 000 Belarusan rubles and 1 931 000 Belarusan rubles (about €130-95). Can a person survive on such a pension during the crisis?

- There is also social pension for those people with disabilities, who have never worked in their life, which makes 1 419 000 Belarusan rubles (about €70). I can hardly imagine a satisfying life that persons with disabilities can afford themselves with such a sum.

One can say that a single person can count on the targeted social assistance. But here is where an insurmountable problem sometimes appears: exceeding of disability pension for at least 100 Belarusan rubles (about €0.005) can serve as a pretext for withdrawing a person with disability from the group of the destitute.

In addition, if a person lives in rural area and has a garden-plot, this circumstance can also become an obstacle for getting targeted social assistance.

Persons with disabilities account for a significant number of public funds: state programs get billions of rubles, barrier-free construction – billions of rubles, social targeted assistance – billions of rubles, and social services – billions of rubles. But, who enters these billions of rubles in the book? Huge sums of money from the state budget are not redistributed among the disabled; a person with disabilities only receives a disability pension and targeted social assistance; all the rest are means that are used by someone for something. Excuse me for my cynicism, but someone earns on the people with disabilities, and in most cases, this "someone" is the state. Today the state has a monopoly on providing social care for persons with disabilities. A huge piece of the budget pie is digested by the state machine.

We often hear that if there was no state people with disabilities would be left without any help at all. It’s not exactly so. Neither last year nor in the previous years an attempt to decentralize funds for people with disabilities has been made. The last time such attempts were made was in 2007.

Now the Ministry of Labor announces that in 2016 people with disabilities will be able to buy some technical rehabilitation independently, while the state will compensate for this purchase from the budget. It looks like some kind of achievement. But one should clearly understand that the compensation does not cover all technical rehabilitation facilities, but only those that are not produced in the country. But they used to be acquired just like that previously; there is nothing new to this. People are not free to choose – they will get only what they will be given. However, a person will be able to give up – that's the biggest choice that the person can make.

There are 81 boarding houses for people with disabilities in Belarus: if social protection services are unable to ensure life support, then the person has to move to a boarding house. An average disabled person receives a pension of two and a half million Belarusan rubles, while living in a boarding house (in Minsk) costs more than six million for the state. Here is where the question arises: if you give six millions to a person will (s)he be able to organize her/himself a proper care in order to maintain vital functions? The question is pending, and it touches upon the issue of decentralizing funds.

The budget for 2016 provides for basically the same amount of aid to the disabled as before – it’s really hard to talk about improving the quality of life. There has been a transfer of today’s situation to the next year without any noticeable progress.

There are no prerequisites for more effective mechanisms for spending funds to appear. Let me give one example. Today, there is a popular privilege: certain categories of persons with disabilities can use public transport free of charge. But how the users are counted? Hypothetically, just like the Ministry of Transport or the Office of Transport recovers this expenditure. Nobody knows how many persons with disabilities have used public transport; no one knows if they use it at all. Given the fact that public transport still remains inaccessible to a large part of the disabled, especially the visually impaired and the disabled with the musculoskeletal disorders, the question is extremely important. So who uses this benefit and is it used at all?

Basically no one is taking any attempts to count the actual users of such widespread benefits and estimated and factual costs. What do we pay someone for – water or actually transported people? Unfortunately, in many cases, it is exactly what happens.

- Basically, the actual budget-2016 keeps the situation the same for people with disabilities, which has developed to date, doesn’t it?

- Yes. The budget is trying to repeat the situation of 2015 in the following year without any attempts to modernize or critically reflect on what is happening.

Of course, attempts of innovation are made, but they are small and don’t have the leading role.

- What about the innovations in the so-called package of "budget laws" that concern persons with disabilities? Are they visible?

- No, not the critical ones. It will pass unnoticed for an average person with disability – the current situation remains.

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