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Riigikogu

At today’s Riigikogu sitting, at the discussion of the matter of significant national importance “Engagement of persons with special needs in the labour market” which was held on the initiative of the Social Affairs Committee, reports were by the member of the Management Board of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund Pille Liimal, the member of the Management Board of the non-profit association “Abikäsi” Indrek Ülper and the Chairman of the Social Affairs Committee Margus Tsahkna

Liimal gave an overview of the opportunities of the Unemployment Insurance Fund in helping disabled people to find jobs and highlighted the related obstacles. She noted that also people with disabilities can use today’s general employment services package of the Unemployment Insurance Fund according to their needs. There is a variety of services, starting from labour force training and traineeship and ending with psychological and addiction counseling and completely individual solutions. Speaking of the major impediments, she noted that the opportunities for persons with special needs to acquire secondary and professional education are limited, the rehabilitation services and distributing of personal aids do not meet the needs, social services often remain on paper, the pension for incapacity for work and social benefits do not facilitate activeness, and there is also little awareness and misbeliefs. 

Ülper noted that, during the time that it has been operating, MTÜ Abikäsi has carried out trainings facilitating returning to the labour market for more than 120 long-term unemployed and persons with special needs. He explained that, almost always, in addition to the training, they had been able to also offer an opportunity for work practice as a client manager, telephone seller, data entry clerk and within the framework of other activates. After the trainings, circa 75% of the persons who had been trained had obtained permanent employment. As at today, Abikäsi provides jobs for about 50 people who have special needs or have been away from the labour market for a very long time. In Ülper’s opinion, the public sector might give an example and employ more people with special needs. Undertakings might also keep this option in mind when recruiting labour force. 

In Tsahkna’s words, it was very important to discuss the matter at the national level, and not only for people with special needs but for the whole state. He referred to the data that had been pointed out during the discussion indicating that, in 2011, there had been 89 400 people who had been declared partially or totally incapacitated for work, 33 000 of them working and 9800 actively looking for a job. There are however a great number of people who are not actively looking for a job today, and that for very different reasons. 

Tsahkna noted that the discussions in the Social Affairs Committee had touched particularly upon the measures taken by the state, in particular as regards the activities of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. According to his explanations, many different measures and support services have been developed but the problem is that very often undertakings on the one hand cannot or do not want to turn to measures provided by the state and, on the other hand, people perhaps cannot find them. “Here I see indeed a practical outcome of our discussion – a third sector organisation and various state organisations together with public attention would be able to bring these parties together and cooperate,” Tsahkna said. He referred to various proposals that had been voiced during the discussion. “The first is to raise the awareness of the people and encourage them – undertakings as well as the people who have special needs and who wish to participate in the labour market,” Tsahkna underlined. In his opinion, we also need to review our philosophy of determining incapacity for work. The relevant Bill is being prepared in the Ministry of Social Affairs. “Today we determine incapacity for work and the approach is essentially that a person is declared incapacitated for work. However, actually it should be turned into determining of capacity for work and thereby reach also practical solutions at the level of the legislator so that these people would be engaged in the labour market according to their abilities,” Tsahkna explained. This would be one starting point to find solutions to the problems so as to implement different opportunities for engaging persons with special needs in the labour market. 

Jüri Jaanson, Siim Kabrits, Helmen Kütt and Yana Toom took the floor during the debate.

The Riigikogu Press Service

 

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