The Riigikogu passed an Act and a Resolution:
The Act on Amendments to the Water Act and the Taxation Act (319 SE), initiated by the Government, which establishes the provisions necessary for the prevention of pollution caused by dumping at sea, was passed with 73 votes in favour. Dumping means discharging substances or materials into the sea with the aim of disposing of them, and because of this aim, such substances and/or materials are considered as wastes in international law. In addition, the Act specifies the provisions concerning the issue of the permit for the special use of water, the dredging of water bodies and the making of payments to international funds for compensation for pollution damage. The amendment of the Act was necessitated by obligations assumed by Estonia under international maritime law agreements.
The Resolution of the Riigikogu “Appointment of a Member of the Council for Allocation of Grants from Gambling Tax Revenues” (327 OE), submitted by the Finance Committee, by which, according to the proposal of the Minister of Social Affairs, Riho Rahuoja who had been appointed a member of the Council as the representative of the Ministry of Social Affairs was excluded from the membership of the Council and the Secretary General of the Ministry of Social Affairs Marelle Erlenheim was appointed a new member of the Council instead of him, was passed with 74 votes in favour.
The Riigikogu deliberated a matter of significant national importance initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction: situation of the caring for close relatives, its influence on economy and moral environment. Reports were by lecturer of the University of Tartu Jüri Kõre, journalist Tiina Kangro and member of the Social Democratic Party Faction Helmen Kütt.
Kõre explained that the caring for close relatives constitutes such a large share of Estonian welfare services that it is impossible to organise this sphere without it. The caring for close relatives has advantages which the formal system does not have, and deficiencies which can be mitigated by cooperation with professional social work. Supporting the caring for close relatives is remarkably cheaper than financing the possible alternative, the institutional caring. Besides the carers assigned by local governments or the home care service, there is the little known and studied system of informal caring for close relatives and paid services.
Caring, including caring for close relatives, means shared responsibility. This is a widespread European understanding of caring.
Kangro noted that, in order to create a better functioning and economically justified system of caring for close relatives, we have to improve our knowledge of the actual situation. Today we lack the information on how many people there are who need care, where and in what situation they are and which needs they have, but also a detailed picture of the functioning of the whole. In his words, it is not even known how many disabled persons and carers have been entered in the register to whom their status applies as a “labour market measure”.
Kütt discussed the caring for close relatives through Estonian legislation. Section 27 of the Constitution provides that the family is required to provide for its members who are in need, while § 97 of the Family Law Act provides that a descendant or ascendant who needs assistance and is unable to maintain himself or herself is entitled to receive maintenance. As of 1 April 2005, the legislation was amended and, as a result of that, the state tasked local governments with the payment of the carer’s allowance, as regards adult persons who need care. According to the common practice in Estonia today, the amount of the allowance is 15 euro for carers for a person with a severe disability and 25 euro for carers for a person with a profound disability. In 2010, local governments began to pay an allowance also to carers for disabled children. It varies by local governments, ranging from 19 to 100 euro. The latter is very rare, though; the amount is commonly 19 euro. Together with the payment of the carer’s allowance, local governments pay social tax for carers who are not covered by social insurance. The state allocates the funds therefor. In the case of adults, the funds necessary for the payment of the carer’s allowance and the benefit are in the allowance fund; in the case of children, it is revenue intended for specific purposes.
Kütt noted that bringing the issue of the caring for close relatives to the plenary hall of the Riigikogu as a matter of national importance should draw the attention of the legislators as well as the general public to the fact that, in a situation where the Estonian population is ageing and the number of taxpayers is decreasing, both human and financial resources have to be used properly. “The Estonian society has begun to understand in the last year that the state welfare services as well as those offered by local governments do not ensure the feeling of confidence and security for people and actually cause alienation from social life,” Kütt said. He added that carers for close relatives have become a buffer in the offering of public services or the lack of these services. Kütt expressed a hope that it would be possible to tackle these problems at a cross-party level, on the basis of scientific studies, involving interest groups and looking for better socio-political solutions, and also reviewing the legislation and amending it, if necessary.
Maret Maripuu, Margus Tsahkna and Mihhail Stalnuhhin took the floor during the debate.
The Estonian Centre Party Faction as the initiator withdrew from the legislative proceeding the Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Amendment of the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Formation of the Committee of Investigation of the Riigikogu for Ascertaining the Facts relating to the Issuing of Temporary Residence Permits to Aliens”” (218 OE).
The Riigikogu Press Service