VITA

Italian elections: Disability is on our agenda

10 Aprile Apr 2008 0200 10 aprile 2008

The non profit world has been waiting for 7 years for the government to set standardized levels of assistance in the social services. And hopes that the next government will deal with the issue

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The non profit world has been waiting for 7 years for the government to set standardized levels of assistance in the social services. And hopes that the next government will deal with the issue

The non profit world has been waiting for 7 years for the government to set standardized levels of assistance in the social services. The health services were given their standards in 2001, but Italy?s social services will have to wait and see what the next government - that will inherit the same file that Prodi inherited from Berlusconi ? will decide. Neither of the last two governments made an effort to improve social services for minors or the disabled, and most important, according to civil society, no effort has been made to determine what in Italy is known as ?Liveas?, the standard minimum levels of social assistance to be delivered in the face of social problems that social services are meant to deal with. Civil society is waiting for these Liveas because they are the only real starting point in the fight to claim the rights of children, the elderly and the socially vulnerable.

Why these standards have not yet been set is a question that the third sector is struggling to find answers for. The lack of resources is one factor, but not the only one. Establishing standard procedures within the realm of social service provision is not a straightforward task, and one that must be approached from a normative angle as well. What should the minimum requires level of services be? What kind of services are most appropriate? Are there any blanket solutions appropriate to all situations? The experts cannot agree, the range of needs that the elderly, the disabled and that children face are varied and often specific to their region. Further, there are the problems of monitoring and evaluation.

These are but a few of the many questions that this delicate issue raises. The point is that minimum standards are not so easily identified as those for health care are. To give a simple example: removing a tooth has the same meaning everywhere, while ?strategy for poverty reduction? means different things in different places. But, according to civil society, norms and standards that define at least the minimum levels of social services required, are urgently needed. This is what the Italian third sector expects the next government to do:

AUSER
?A law for the elderly?. This is the priority, according to Auser, Italy?s largest association for the elderly. Founded in 1989, Auser counts with 270 thousand members and 40 thousand volunteers. Auser president, Michele Mangano, highlights a point that politicians, in this election campaign, seem to have forgotten: ?In 2030 one third of the Italian population will be over 65. As we are the only EU country not to have a law that specifically addresses the needs of non self sufficient elderly, we are bound to face serious problems in the future?.

What problems?
When it comes to old people who cannot tend to themselves, it is important to think of individual caring measures that includes services not necessarily related to health care, their everyday household needs, for example. It is a real tragedy that the Liveas do not exist.

Why?
Because it shows that social services are considered to be less important than health care needs.

What can be done to change this?
A law designed specifically to cater for those who cannot tend to their own needs, the allocation of 10 billion euros and the birth of personalised care.

  • www.auser.it

AISM
?Moving from integration to inclusion? is the key to solving the problems that the disabled face for Roberta Amadeo, president of Aism, the Italian association for multiple sclerosis. Aism represents 54 thousand Italians who suffer from this disease and together with Fism it finances 70% of Italian scientific research into multiple sclerosis.

What is the difference between integration and inclusion?
It is a question of rights, of creating a new normative system that brings harmony to what is today a confused mix of laws. The first step should be to adhere to UN Convention for disability.

What are the other steps?
In 2006 a fund for non self sufficiency was finally set up. This year the minister for social affairs increased the fund to 300 million euros, and in 2009 it will be increased to 900 million. But the necessary amount is 1 billion euros. Even more important than the money, is the legal framework. What we really need is a law to standardise social service delivery.