The office of the chancellor of justice is always open to hearing about matters which affect people, including and especially those relating to kindergarten and school places, Ülle Madise, the current office-holder, says.
Chancellor of Justice Madise made her remarks in the context of an overview of the duties assigned to her she gave to the Riigikogu on Wednesday, an overview which also helps shed light to the broader public on what Madise's job portfolio includes.
Her role thus takes in international tasks, the protection of disabled people, the protection and promotion of the rights of children, the inspection of prisons and old people's homes, and the general protection and promotion of human rights, she said.
In the course of a year, her office gets to see all aspects of the life in Estonia, mostly via the form of complaints.
"People can write to us as they can and outline their problems. No legal aid is needed to do that. And it is our task to then understand what the crux of the matter is," Madise told the Riigikogu.
In the case a probable infringement of someone's rights, the office then informs the complainant that a first-tier administrative court action is viable.
There is a large number of such cases, Madise went on, many relating to nursery school places.
Under the law, children must be ensured nursery places and pre-school education, regardless of irresponsible actions on the part of local municipalities.
"To quote a very wittily written decision from the Supreme Court, children and parents must not be placed in a disadvantageous situation because their place of residence is in a rural municipality or city municipality that has simply opted to not comply with the law," Madise continued.
A judicial approach has begun to bear fruit in aiding parents, Madise said, but the shortage of nursery places nonetheless continues to be a systemic matter.
"There are also local governments who honestly write in a regulation – and the word 'honest' has no positive connotation here – that they will provide a nursery place once there is place available. Actually, it is known on the basis of the data contained in the population register how many children who are about to attain nursery or school age live in the area of any local government," she added.
There are certainly also cases where it is beyond the justice chancellor's competence to resolve the matter, in accordance with the legislation. The office must then explain that, as an institution, they cannot alter court decisions, doctors diagnoses or local housing decision.
"And it is of no avail to blame people for not making decisions if one or another decision is not within their competence. If it makes people feel better, I do not mind that. But it is a little better when people expend their energy and time on approaching the authorities in cases where they could really obtain help," Madise concluded.
An ensuing cross-party debate and the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Higher Education Act, which provides for stopping the domination of the English language in tertiary education followed – this was not directly related to Madise's presentation.
The bill is sponsored by the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).
Two other bills, relating to education and to VAT, had their first readings postponed to today, Thursday.
Editor: Andrew Whyte