A rift in the coalition has appeared over the issue of general care, primarily for the elderly, both in care facilities and at home.
Around 48,000 people are full-time carers for elderly or other family members, in the home. This prevents them from going to work.
However, the Social Democratic Party (SDE) says, gettting around half of these people back to work would provide sufficient tax revenue for a €71-million scheme which would provide support, mostly via the state and the existing state pension, for those in care and those carers remaining at home.
The €71 million is far higher than a sum agreed on in the coalition agreement signed in July.
The matter is to meet the coalition council, representing the three coalition parties, Reform, Isamaa and SDE, on Monday.
Isamaa chair Helir-Valdor Seeder says that his party is in favor of universal care reform, qualifying his words by calling it complicated to talk about SDE-initiated greater funding ahead of knowing the content of the proposals.
Seeder said: "We can certainly talk about specific amounts and costs when we know the content of the reforms, the draft bill, its schedule, and the scope within the state budget."
The 2023 state budget itself is at cabinet stage, with a view to being passed on to the Riigikogu for voting near the end of this month.
Social protection minister Signe Riisalo noted that the coalition, formed in July, necessarily comes with an in-fixed expiry date, ie. the general election next March, meaning not all desired proposals will make it.
Riisalo said: "The coalition agreement was drawn up for a very short period of time in office. While we would like to improve many things in the world, we can only be selective. General care was chosen, because it is known that this is financially overwhelming for our families."
Minister Peterson meanwhile says that his party is ready to go all in on the issue.
Minister Riisalo came up with a scheme to reform general care, which came at a €50 million price tag, early on this year, when Reform was in office with the Center Party.
The Reform/Isamaa/SDE coalition agreement revised the price downward to €40 million, which SDE no longer wishes to accept, stating that this would only part-compensate for care home places for the elderly, and would not cover home-care whatsoever.
SDE has proposed instead a €71.5-million, which should be sufficient to resolve the issues above, Peterson said, breaking down the cover thus: €500 from the state pension, up to €180 from local government, and €700 from the state (all costs per month).
Bringing back at least half of those who cannot work, due to care commitments, back into the workforce, which, he said, would boost tax revenues by €96 million – sufficient to cover the SDE proposal noted above.
The measure would also lighten the burden for carers remaining at home, to the tune of around €350 per month, Peterson said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte