The Norwegian Government has now included hours for personal support contacts and respite care in the act governing user-controlled personal assistance.
‘Respite care and personal support contact hours will be included in the act, which is an important improvement compared with the bill presented by the red-green coalition government last year. Instead of the 3,000 people who have user-controlled personal assistance today, the Norwegian Government expects the new rights to apply to approximately 14,000 people,’ says Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie.
This message set the tone for the whole press conference, which was held at a pleasant and congenial breakfast at Det norske Teatret in Oslo last Friday morning.
‘This was an election promise. Independence is important. It is about being master, or perhaps I should say mistress in the present company, of one’s own house,’ said Prime Minister Erna Solberg to Vibeke Marøy Melstrøm, who shared a table with all the ministers.
A landmark issue
‘Our ambition is to present the bill well before the summer, and I am happy to be able to say that we look like succeeding in this. This has been an important issue for the Government,’ said Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
The Ministry of Health and Care Services had invited Uloba to this breakfast together with other organisations, including the Norwegian Association of Disabled (NAD), the Norwegian Association for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (NFU), the JAG Association and the Norwegian Federation of Organisations of Disabled People (FFO).
Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie told Uloba that when he woke up that morning, he had thought about our very own Bente Skansgård, who was responsible for bringing liberation in the form of user-controlled personal assistance to Norway.
‘Presenting the bill in early May will enable the Storting to consider it before the summer recess. That should not be a problem,’ says Høie.
‘The inclusion of respite care and participation in society (personal support contact) in the calculation of user-controlled personal assistance hours means that the scheme will become the liberating tool it was intended to be. An important principle underlying the act is that tasks an individual could do for him or herself were it not for functional impairment, can also be carried out by an assistant. That is why this is a great day,’ said Bent Høie.
Minister Høie also took the opportunity to thank Uloba and the other organisations that have fought for this and endured the long wait.
‘You did the work, and making this an individual right is important,’ said Høie.
Minister of Finance Siv Jensen had also let figures be figures this morning:
‘I am glad to get this freedom reform in place, and I am glad that it is linked to life, not to health. Making it a right is crucial with respect to equality. We have heard enough speeches and fine words about inclusion and the labour market. This law is important in relation to making the resources available,’ said Minister of Finance Siv Jensen.
A historic day
‘Today is a historic day in many ways. We are witnessing a small revolution,’ says Vibeke Marøy Melstrøm.
As one of the founders and general manager of Uloba, she has campaigned for the enshrinement of rights into law for more than twenty years.
‘The steps the Government is now taking mean that participation in society is included in the law, enabling us to play an active part in and contribute to society. The law will also ensure that disabled children can live at home with their own families instead of having to live full-time or part-time in an institution. It is also an important point that what an assistant does for me is what I could have done for myself had I not had a functional impairment. User-controlled personal assistance is the only tool that enables us to participate in society as citizens with rights and obligations. We are actually the best proof of this,’ said Vibeke Marøy Melstrøm to the attentive government ministers.
‘The Government’s proposal entails taking a different view of disabled people – as actively participating, resourceful members of society, not passive recipients. That is why I call it revolutionary,’ said Vibeke Marøy Melstrøm.
‘I do things I don’t know how to every day. That is a good first step,’ concluded Prime Minister Erna Solberg before leaving for a cabinet meeting.
By: Hans Hjellemo