STIL, the founders of Independent Living in Sweden, yesterday issued a statement claiming that the Swedish government is pitting marginalized groups against each another.
The Swedish Minister of finance Magdalena Andersson comments that the new prognoses from the Swedish Migration Agency are of grave concern. On the issue of how Sweden will finance the rising costs for arriving refugees, she specifically mentioned savings targeted at the social insurance areas of sick leave and personal assistance.
According to Susanne Berg, head of STIL’s political department, this is deeply troubling. “It is remarkable that the first action of a social democrat government is to target vulnerable groups, at the same time as tax reductions has been implemented amounting to 140 billion Swedish kronor since 2006” – she says.
What the minister refers to as costs for personal assistance is in fact an item of expenditure within the social insurance budget. This is not equivalent to a cost in the public finances. 87% of the allowance for personal assistance goes directly to salaries for personal assistants.
It is upsetting to hear the minister talking about the necessity of creating jobs and increasing employment levels. She talks about the need people to access employment, and that measures against unemployment must be protected. Today there are 96 000 people employed as personal assistants. Many of them belong to groups marginalized on the regular employment market, such as youths and newcomers.
Personal assistance enables disabled people to study, work, create families, live where they wish and participate in society.
“The costs will not disappear as long as we are part of the society”, says Susanne Berg. We also know that personal assistance is by far the most cost-efficient compared to other social services.
To pit groups in need of social support against one another is to play into the hands of dark forces. The rights to parental leave or children’s benefit would never be pitted against another social support system, in this manner.
Susanne Berg and STIL hope that Magdalena Andersson does not intend to continue making comparisons like these and instead will pursue more responsible politics where the Swedish Government takes human rights seriously – whether or not it is for refugees or for disabled people.
Photo: Susanne Berg