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Deliberation of ensuring the rights of children as a matter of significant national importance was held in the Riigikogu today. Reports were made by Chairman of the Social Affairs Committee Urmas Reinsalu, the Minister of Social Affairs Hanno Pevkur and Chancellor of Justice Indrek Teder.

Urmas Reinsalu gave to the Riigikogu an overview of the problems that had arisen at the discussions on child protection issues organised by the Social Affairs Committee, with participation of the Union for Child Welfare, the Health Board and the Child Carers Professional Association. In Reinsalu’s words, a new consolidated text of the Child Protection Act is needed. Secondly he mentioned the shortage of employees engaging in child protection full time, in particular as regards employees exercising supervision. The Social Affairs Committee has turned to the Local Governments Association and the Minister of Regional Affairs with a request to seriously consider possibilities to keep at least the existing number of child protection officials in 2011. Third, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Union for Child Welfare have recommended that there should be an independent official who would engage in supervision of children’s rights in Estonia. Fourth, in Reinsalu’s words, the problems of foster families and the substitute home service had arisen. “Children without parental care need the help of the state,” stressed Reinsalu. Chairman of the Social Affairs Committee also mentioned the situation in kindergartens and issues relating to childcare as well as the fact that problems of treatment and rehabilitation of children with addiction disorder have found no solution as yet. Reinsalu: “The Social Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu supports the plan of the Ministry of Social Affairs to prepare a new children and families development plan. The new children and families development plan should definitely cover issues like organisation and the supervision system of child protection work, and supporting of parenthood is an important issue.”
In the words of the Minister of Social Affairs Hanno Pevkur, children constitute 18.6 per cent of our whole population at present. “Although the birth rate has increased, the number of children of 0–17 years of age on the whole keeps decreasing, unfortunately. The proportion of children of 0–17 years of age among the population is also decreasing,” underlined Pevkur. In his speech, Pevkur referred to the important role of the family in the formation of the outlook on the world and of the behaviour of children, and in influencing the health and security of children. “From the aspect of prevention of risk and addiction behaviour and mental disorders of children, the education of parents and especially supporting of parenthood are extremely important. Supporting of parenthood is the prevention work which helps reduce the number of children without parental care and saves money in a long term perspective,” spoke the Minister. He added that, in the near future, a concept of supporting parenthood is going to be prepared in the Ministry in cooperation of various organisations. The development plan to reduce violence, coordinated by the Ministry of Justice, also regards development of parental skills and increasing of parental responsibility as very important prevention work. A possible legislative amendment which would treat corporal punishment of children as violence against children and behaviour offending the human dignity of the child, and not as a method of education, was also discussed. The Minister stressed the need to improve the quality of the child protection system and he added that, besides the functioning child protection system, education has an extremely important role so that both kindergartens and schools would have secure environment where the health of children would be safeguarded. “The school and a supporting family are very important for children to acquire right habits for a long and active life and to grow up to be capable people,” concluded Pevkur.
The Chancellor of Justice agreed with the previous speakers in that, at present, a national strategy is lacking in the sphere of children and families. He also stressed the need to prepare a Child Protection Act that would actually function. Teder also touched upon the issues relating to children’s rights, the problems of availability of the rehabilitation service, establishing of the position of children’s ombudsman as an independent defender of children’s rights and freedoms, and the right to education.
On behalf of factions, comments were presented by Liisa-Ly Pakosta, Heljo Pikhof, Kadri Simson, Maret Maripuu, Mai Treial and Marek Strandberg; Member of the Riigikogu Paul-Eerik Rummo also took the floor.
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The Riigikogu passed with 84 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the District Heating Act and the Social Welfare Act (716 SE), initiated by the Government. A provision is added to the District Heating Act, according to which, in event of a debt of a consumer, a network operator cannot suspend the heat supply necessary for heating the dwelling during the period from 1 October until 30 April until ninety days have passed since the receipt of a notice sent to the consumer and the consumer has failed to eliminate the circumstance which was the basis for suspension of heat supply during that period. According to the amendment of the Social Welfare Act, a rural municipality or city government can, on the basis of the consent of the applicant obtained by the counselling process, transfer the funds allocated for covering housing expenses calculated in the scope and structure provided by the law directly to the account of the person who provides or has provided public utility services. Nobody voted against the Act and nobody abstained.
The Act on Amendments to the Income Tax Act and the Family Law Act (180 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 61 votes in favour. The purpose of the amendments is to guarantee equal treatment of natural persons, similarly with legal persons, in the taxation of profit received from securities transactions. The Income Tax Act was amended by adding two new sections, in which the regulation concerning income received from financial assets and the investment account is provided. The system based on the use of investment account enables to reinvest the income received from certain most common types of investments without tax liabilities. This will allow to postpone income tax liability if a person determines a bank account as his/her investment account, transfers money to it and after that acquires securities (or other financial instruments) for that money. If the money received as a result of transfer of these securities is again transferred to the investment account, no immediate tax liability will arise from this transfer transaction and the money received can be re-invested in other securities to the full extent. Income tax liability will arise if more money is withdrawn from the account than was transferred to it. Nobody voted against the Act, one member of the Riigikogu abstained. The Act enters into force on 1 January 2011, clauses 1 4) and 10) enter into force on 1 January 2024 and § 2 enters into force on 1 July 2010.
The Act on Amendments to the Animal Protection Act (745 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 77 votes in favour. The amendments establish the requirement for keepers of animals to have the knowledge necessary for ensuring the health and well-being of animals, and the obligation of persons directly engaged in keeping animals to undergo a training on keeping the animal in compliance with the requirements. This concerns in the first place the need to establish a requirement to undergo training for the persons who directly come into contact with keeping broilers. It also establishes certain requirements to persons conducting animal testing who will have to undergo a relevant training on the use of experimental animals or involve in conducting the animal testing a person who has passed a relevant training. The Act is also amended by adding the provision according to which, in intensive animal keeping, the number of animals kept in the premises or a building used for keeping of animals kept for certain animal keeping purposes may not exceed the maximum stocking density. Nobody voted against the Act and nobody abstained. The Act enters into force on the following day after its publication in the Riigi Teataja.
For more details, read the verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian):
The Riigikogu Press Service