Birth of a disabled child, severe illness of a child or health-deteriorating accident always represents a big challenge and change of life for parents. Disabled children usually require more attention and caring; parents also have to start looking for information that will help them to cope better in the new situation.
Like with any other child, parents are the main caretakers and providers, however, additional assistance is available to satisfy disability-related needs of the child. Identification of severity of the disability of a child will entitle parents to various social services, supports and benefits, available from the state and local governments. The functions, related to assisting disabled children and their parents are divided between the central and local government.
What kind of assistance is provided by the state?
Social Benefits for Disabled Persons Act provides the grounds for the payment of disabled child allowance and education allowance. Children aged 16-17 years can get benefits and allowances, available for disabled, working-age people. See more from the website of the Social Insurance Board.
- Rehabilitation service that includes appraisal of rehabilitation requirements and planning of activities, supervision and evaluation of the implementation of planned activities, services of a physiotherapist, services of activity and creative therapist and services offered by social worker, special pedagogue, psychologist and speech therapist. See more from the website of the Social Insurance Board.
- Lawful representative or caretaker of a child with severe or profound disability is entitled to child care services, funded by the state; applications will be filed to rural municipality or city government of the child’s place of residence. See more from the Social Welfare Act.
- Evaluation of need for technical aid and allocation of such aids; sales, rent and refunding of technical aids.
- Maintenance and care of disabled children, deprived of parental care, at social welfare institutions.
Services and benefits provided by local governments
- Social counselling
- Support person for a family
- Support person for a child
- Personal assistant for a child
- Psychological counselling
- Additional funding of rehabilitation services
- Additional funding of technical aids
- Child care services, incl. in social welfare institutions
- Transport for disabled persons
- Day care centres
- Caregiver’s allowance and related social welfare insurance
- Training courses for parents and children
- Supports and benefits
- Events and creation and support to self-aid groups of parents
- Emergency clothing and food aid
- Fitting/accommodation of living premises
Assistance to disabled children
Rural municipality or city government will create opportunities for developing and growing up in a child care institution of their place of residence for children with physical, speech, mental or sensory impairment (hereinafter the children with special needs). Children with special needs will be given the conditions to be brought up at adjustment groups, with other children.
Should it be impossible to establish an adjustment group in the child care institution of the child’s place of residence, the rural municipality or city government concerned will establish special groups or found special nursery schools. Special and adjustment groups are smaller than regular groups to allow teachers more time to work with the children. A child will be admitted to a special nursery school (special group) on the bases of the decision of advisory committee and written application of parent or guardian.
Studying is mandatory for children of school age. Central and local government will ensure everyone with the possibility for compulsory school attendance and continuous studies. Local government will give people with physical, speech, mental or sensory impairment and in need of special assistance the possibility to study at a school of their respective place of residence. In the absence of the appropriate conditions the central and local government will create the conditions for study educational institutions, established for that purpose. In general, disabled children are taught at regular schools and, where appropriate, at special educational institutions. Required support services will be available to children with special education needs in both regular and special schools. Social welfare workers, psychologists and speech therapists are employed as support specialists in many schools.
Every county and town has advisory committees with the following competence:
- to assign study programme or study form, matching his or her abilities, to a child with special needs;
- referral of a child with special needs to a school or class with special needs, with the consent of a parent (guardian), deciding to postpone compulsory school attendance at the request of a parent.
Special schools are meant for children with impaired speech, hearing, vision, with mobility disability or intellectual disability. The schools are also intended for students with mental disorders.
Home schooling for health reasons is an option available to students of class 1 – 9, who are unable to attend school for physical reasons. Home schooling will be assigned to a child in the case of a severe chronic somatic disease or severe functional disorder and disability. Description of a student’s state of health will be given by general practitioner or medical specialist at the request of a parent (guardian). Transferring a student to home schooling and assigning him or her individual study programme is a decision to be adopted by school staff council at the direction of a general practitioner or medical specialist. Home schooling can only be implemented with the consent of a parent.
Parents are welcome to contact nursery schools, schools and local educational departments or boards on matters related to schooling of disabled children.
Disabled children will be provided with healthcare services based on their need (health status). Some healthcare institutions also employ social workers who provide initial social counselling. For more information on social services and benefits, turn to the social worker or child protection specialist at your local government.
Medical rehabilitation requirements are evaluated by a physician who can refer the child to a healthcare institution providing the required service, if necessary. Appropriate care (at healthcare institutions or, if needed, in the form of home nursing service) is available for children requiring nursing care. More detailed information about nursing care is available from the child’s attending physician or family physician, who can also provide a referral. The Health Insurance Fund can pay for up to 60 days of nursing care. This period can be extended by an agreement between the Health Insurance Fund and the service provider. The patient’s own contribution for nursing care is 15% of the in-patient fee (the fee for one day is 43.01 euros, 15% of which is 6.45 euros).
Social rehabilitation is meant for all disabled persons (including children under 16 years of age) who require daily assistance in coping with limitations resulting from the disability or special need. The purpose of rehabilitation is to train and develop the person’s everyday skills, increase opportunities for participation in social life, and support education and training. Social rehabilitation services are arranged by the Social Insurance Board; the Board will also compile the rehabilitation programme. In more complex cases, the disabled person will be referred to a rehabilitation institution for the preparation of an individual rehabilitation plan.
Several medical institutions also provide pregnancy crisis counselling suitable for the parents of a disabled child seeking social-physical counselling related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or the first years of life. Additional information about pregnancy crisis counselling is available here.
The mother or father of a disabled child has the right to receive one working day per month of child care leave, remunerated based on their average wage, until the child turns 18. A mother or father raising an up to 14-year old child or an up to 18-year old disabled child has the right to receive up to 10 working days of unpaid child care leave per calendar year.
In accordance with the Employment Contracts Act, a pregnant woman or an employee raising a child under three years of age or a disabled child may be sent on a business trip only with the employee’s consent.
Raising a disable child is regarded as an activity, equivalent to employment, and the respective number of years will be included in length of employment for the purposes of pension calculation.
Old-age pension under favourable conditions is entitled to persons who have worked the pension qualifying period, required to get an old-age pension (pension qualifying period of 15 years, worked in Estonia). Mother, father, step-parent, guardian or caregiver who has raised a child under the age of 18 years with an moderate, with severe or profound disability for eight years, at least – will qualify for old-age pension under favourable conditions five years before they reach the age of old-age pension. Only one of the persons who has raised the child can use this benefit.
The Public Transport Act defines the right of free of charge transportation on national lines in railway, road and waterway traffic (including commercial lines), the carriers is required to carry free of charge as follows:
- pre-school children;
- disabled children, persons aged 16 years or more who have a profound disability;
- person accompanying a person having a profound or severe visual disability or the guide dog accompanying a person having a visual disability.