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Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister has plan to re-open social services

17.4.2020 11:13
Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jana Maláčová, 6 April 2020, interviewed for ROMEA TV. (PHOTO: František Bikár, Romea.cz)
Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jana Maláčová, 6 April 2020, interviewed for ROMEA TV. (PHOTO: František Bikár, Romea.cz)

The Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry has a plan for the gradual renewal of social services operations that had to cease in mid-March because of the possible spread of COVID-19 and says the reopening will be guided by epidemiologists' recommendations. Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jana Maláčová (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) informed the Czech News Agency of the plan yesterday.

The Association of Social Services Providers, according to its head, Jiří Horecký, is also preparing a plan for the gradual reopening of facilities for persons living with disabilities or for senior citizens and wants to deliver it to the ministry. "We have a plan ready to go," the minister said.

"We still need to know the numbers for Easter [of infected people]. The approach will depend on those results and on the standpoint of the epidemiologists," she told the Czech News Agency.

"We want to be more conservative because this is about the most vulnerable [clients]," the minister said. On Wednesday the ministry leadership met to discuss the situation with representatives of facilities and organizations that provide care to those in need.

The minister had said on Tuesday evening that "it may be time to loosen the screws" but that the providers of the individual services must first agree with the approach. The Association of Social Services Providers could have its own proposal ready by the end of the week.

"We are preparing our plan for how to return the closed services to operation, including with regard to demand [from those in need]. We will give it to the Labor Ministry," the head of the association said.

Horecký also said he hopes the ministry might take up the association's proposals, adding that in their view, so-called drop-in services working in the field with children living with disabilities and their families could be the services renewed first. Communications with those professional service providers could at least function virtually.

In case of need, the staffers would then be able to visit clients at home. That would be followed by the reopening of daytime facilities providing fee-based social services for children and adults with reduced self-sufficiency due to disability or chronic mental illness, perhaps for a limited number of clients.

After that the daytime facilities for senior citizens would open, and the last to open would be facilities for senior citizens offering week-long stays under stricter hygienic protection measures. Horecký said one possible scenario to be proposed by the association would be that the individual types of aid would begin running again at one-week or 14-day intervals, like shops and other operations.

People who have had to remain at home to care for relatives living with disabilities or their older family members after the social services closed are able to collect a nursing benefit from the welfare system. The state will pay the benefit until social care facilities reopen.

For employed persons, the amount of the benefit is 60 % of the person's daily basic income, while for self-employed persons the benefit is CZK 424 [EUR 16] a day. The Labor and Social Affairs Minister has already announced that she will propose raising the nursing benefit for employed persons to 80 % of their basic income, retroactively for April.

It is not yet clear whether the benefit for self-employed persons can also be adjusted upward. Maláčová also previously mentioned that she is planning extraordinary subsidies for social services.

The subsidies will most likely cover facilities' costs associated with taking measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and perhaps would include bonuses for staff. Negotiations on the eventual sum of money available for those subsidies must happen with the Finance Ministry.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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COVID-19, MPSV, sociální práce, sociální služby



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