Parents demand subsidies for disabled children in home care

The Czech state provides each disabled child in institutional care with subsidies of over 70,000 crowns every year. But if parents decide to take care of their child at home, they get nothing - even though one of the parents usually has to give up his or her job to be able to provide full time assistance to the child. The National Council for Handicapped People says this practice is discriminatory and even unconstitutional. That's why it has decided to file a complaint with the Constitutional Court - in a manner it hoped would bring the public's attention to the problem.

A convoy of five cars marked with visible signs hit the road on Monday morning from Prague's headquarters of the National Council for Handicapped People. The destination was Brno - the seat of the Czech Republic's Constitutional Court. On their way the convoy stopped over in three towns. The head of the National Council for Handicapped People Vaclav Krasa describes the itinerary.

"Our idea was that a convoy of five cars would travel across the country and stop in the towns of Kolin, Pardubice and Svitavy where press conferences and seminars would be held and various other events would take place such as handing out leaflets and cookies. Each town had a chance to choose in which way they wanted to raise awareness of the problems handicapped people have to face."

Alena Skalova is a mother of a 15-year old son who has lived in an institution since the age of seven. Mrs Skalova says that at present she could not afford to take care of her son at home nor would she be able to handle it physically. She says the state subsidy would allow her to provide home care to her son.

"I would pay for a personal assistant to my son. That would enable me to find a part-time job and still look after my son, who needs my help."

The Ministry of Social Affairs says it will put forward an amendment to the law on social security by the end of this year. According to Deputy Minister Ludmila Mullerova the bill adjusts the terms under which subsidies will be granted and broadens the scale of social services whose providers would be entitled to state contributions.

"One option is that people with disabilities would receive the subsidy themselves. A second alternative is that the amount allocated for personal assistance to those people would go to the care giver - be they the parents or other persons."