Ljubljana – After filing two referendum initiatives recently, the opposition Democrats (SDS) initiated procedures for a referendum on the changes to the long-term care act that delay the act’s implementation for a year. The SDS thinks this would harm the elderly, while the Labour Ministry argues the delay was needed to sort out the financing.
The long-term care act, passed under the previous SDS-led government, brings comprehensive solutions for elderly care and the care of those who need support from other people both at institutions and at home, said Zvonko Černač from the SDS deputy group.
He stressed that EU institutions had been calling for regulation of the long-term care for years, so the passage of the act was also one of the milestones of the recovery and resilience plan, which is the basis for drawing EU funds.
Černač believes that the one-year transition period envisaged by the act passed last December was long enough. The law determines who will provide services, who will be eligible for the services and how existing forms of institutional care will be transformed; the sources of financing have also been set, he said.
He noted that the then opposition and certain individuals had opposed the bill already as it was being passed. “They failed and it seems that despite their defeat they still want to harm the elderly and those who need help.”
If this was not the case, the coalition would amend the law to include the proposals presented then rather than blocking the implementation of the law altogether. The SDS also pointed to the fact that the changes were fast-tracked through parliament.
The Ministry of Labour, the Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities stressed in its response that the delay was needed because if the law as passed by the previous government was implemented it would cause tremendous damage to the entire system of elderly care. It noted that the providers of these services, the Association of Social Institutes, the ZZZS health fund, representatives of civil society and others, had been warning of this.
“The changes to the law give us time to sort out the financing that is non-existent now, to regulate the status of services providers, to create entry points as a way of assessing the needs,” said Labour Ministry State Secretary Simon Maljevac.
He added that all key stakeholders, who would receive unreasonable tasks had been freed from those obligations. The changes bring EUR 16 million annually to cover for the pay rises in the health and social care.
They also envisage more than EUR 13 million a year for additional hiring, which is planned under the changes to the standards and norms in social care. These funds are guaranteed by the end of 2023. “Thus, we are preventing the increased labour costs from affecting the prices of care in the autumn.”
Coalition Left MP Miha Kordiš said the SDS was merely protecting its “harmful legacy” with the move. “The new coalition has inherited devastation and the long-term care act is one of the most evident ruins that pays absolutely no attention to the needs of the elderly,” he said, adding that the law was all about privatisation of the elderly care and pinning its financing on the state.
The opposition New Slovenia (NSi) said it opposes the changes to the act but was yet to decide whether it would support the referendum initiative.
The SDS expects the collecting of the 40,000 required signatures for the referendum to take place in the same period as for the other two referendums, between 1 September and 5 October. It also expects all referendums for which enough signatures will be collected to be held on the same day, on the day of the presidential or local elections.
The other two referendum initiatives target the government-sponsored changes to the RTV Slovenija act and the changes to the government act.
Asked whether this would be the SDS’s modus operandi in this term, Černač said this was a question for Prime Minister Robert Golob and his coalition. “If they don’t file harmful laws and harmful changes to laws, there will be no need to prevent these harmful consequences in referendums,” he said.
The National Assembly passed the changes to the long-term care act last week, with the government pointing to deficiencies of the law and noting it could not be implemented in practice, which several other stakeholders confirmed, including the health fund ZZZS.