Social affairs ministry: No major cuts in disabled groups' funding imminent

Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center).
Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center). Source: ERR

The social affairs ministry has denied claims that it planned to cut back on funding to organizations representing people with disabilities.

Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center) said that support for the disabled and their representative groups would be the last area cuts would be made.

"I am very sorry that claims to the contrary have reached the media today, that a 50 percent reduction in funding for these organizations had been decided on," Kiik wrote on his social media account Saturday.

"I can confirm that this is not true. There is no such decision, and there will be no such decision," he added.

Rait Kuuse, deputy secretary general for social policy at the Ministry of Social Affairs, told ERR Saturday that there was no basis to the claims, which representatives of the sector had said threatened to ruin it.

"It is possible that we are going to make it through the crisis so that there is not much need for reorganization," Kuuse said.

"It might not be until mid-May when it will be determined whether, and by how much, we should start reducing funding for any of our 13 strategic partners, or postponing funding for the canceled projects over a longer period of time," Kuuse went on.

The Estonian Chamber of Disabled People (EPIK), which represents close to 300 organizations, said Saturday that the social affairs ministry planned to make cuts in funding of up to 50 percent. Monika Haukanõmm, EPIK's board chair, noted in a press release that: "At a time when the state is discussing supporting the business sector with hundreds of millions, it is unacceptable for the ax to fall … on people with disabilities, children and the elderly."

Haukanõmm added that the cuts would be in-line with a similar fall in gambling tax revenue and would amount to around €600,000 for all the chamber's organizations combined, which would wipe out its smaller members in particular.

Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik confirmed that gambling tax receipts had taken a hit due to the economic downturn arising from the coronavirus pandemic, which would impact not only on his ministry and its activities but also those of the culture ministry, the finance ministry and the education ministry.

The social affairs ministry had given a heads-up on the potential 50-percent gambling tax revenue loss on April 9, according to BNS, which the EPIK also received via a letter.

According to ERR's online news in Estonian, the letter's contents then got disseminated among the various disability organizations and others, which led to the belief that a 50 percent cut was imminent becoming gospel, whereas it had not been

"The Ministry of Social Affairs has not reduced the support for any organization as a result of this (gambling tax fall in revenue-ed.). We have confirmed that the payments for the second quarter will be made according to the agreed payment schedule. In addition, negotiations have begun on how to organize the payments and activities planned for the second half of this year, and I am sure that we will find a reasonable solution for this in cooperation with civic associations and the government in the near future," Tanel Kiik noted, according to BNS.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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