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"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark!"

Photograph: Lyndsay Jensen

Text: Michaela Medveďová / Anna Pawlowicz

On the 2nd of May, the government released a new disability policy agreement, marking the first time a comprehensive framework has been drawn up within the disability policy area. Consisting of 25 initiatives, the aim is mainly for municipalities to reduce their expenses in the field of disability by cutting back on administrative costs and bureaucracy.

Both before and after its release, it was met with concerns and criticism from the disability community and other political parties for being more about money than about people. The framework inspired a demonstration that took place on May 22nd in Copenhagen.

In this issue, we will examine the new agreement's contents and the reactions it drew, as well as the demonstration that our Founder and Editor also attended.

What does the new agreement include?

The framework, created by the Liberal Alliance, the Conservative People's Party, and the Radical Left, sets the direction for the disability area.

The framework's big focus is on ensuring municipalities reduce their expenses within the disability area associated with administrative costs and bureaucracy. TV2 reported that "over a number of years, costs have increased significantly in the area. In the period 2018 to 2022, expenses have increased from DKK 55.2 billion to DKK 59.7 billion at the municipalities."

In the framework, specific goals for cutting costs have yet to be described. However, a section of the agreement describes the overall goal: "The municipalities are experiencing increasing expenditure pressure, while the citizens are experiencing that the quality of the efforts and the trust in the municipalities are under pressure. In other words, more money is spent - without the citizens experiencing an improvement in welfare. It does not work. The resources must be used better for the benefit of children, young people and adults with disabilities. We want to change the framework under which the municipalities and employees operate as a result of rigid rules, where the expenses associated with bureaucracy and administration are disproportionately large in relation to the quality that the citizen experiences."

Among others, the complete framework includes the following themes:

  • Fewer unnecessary reassessments and revisions to the help people receive

  • Simplified rules for access to aids and simplification of the model for the additional expenses benefit

  • Development of a new rate model and a new model for how the highly specialised part of the disability area can be divided into specialities

  • Work on finding solutions to reduce costs of particularly complex and expensive individual cases

  • Action plan for getting more people with disabilities to contribute to the labour market with education and employment possibilities

  • More training requirements for employees in care services and education requirements for guaranteed offers

  • Change in rules for housing offers for couples with regard to the spouses of deceased people with disabilities: when the spouse with disabilities dies, the housing offer for couples can be terminated more easily

What is the criticism against the framework?

Some of the political parties that were initially part of the negotiations, The Danish People's Party, the Danish Democrats, and SF, all left. The Danish People's Party's disability rapporteur, Mette Thiesen, explained: "The reason we left was that you didn't want to change the entire basic premise of the agreement, which is still to save money on some of the most vulnerable, and we couldn't see ourselves doing that."

The Chairman of Danske Handicaporganisationer, Thorkild Olesen, also criticised the framework's focus on short-term savings: "There are undoubtedly places where the money can be spent more wisely than today and thus create better conditions for people with disabilities. But it is neither beneficial for citizens nor the municipality's finances to have such a large focus on short-term savings."

During the negotiations, there were also proposals from the government to expand the use of force against people with disabilities. Several of them did not make it into the final agreement, such as moving people with the consent of a guardian or locking people with disabilities who are a danger to themselves or others inside their homes or a care facility (for up to 10 hours a day).

These initial proposals were harshly criticised by Monica Lylloff from the #enmillionstemmer movement:

"It is going the wrong way in Denmark. Backwards. People with disabilities, and here I am talking about children with ADHD and autism, young people who have dyslexia, adults who need help to get out of their house, etc., are referred to as cost pressure. It is being appointed as a scapegoat for the municipalities' red figures on the bottom line . . . It sounds like a chapter from the past for which the state has actually apologised. But unfortunately, it's pretty much right now that this could be your future if you get into a car accident tomorrow and become disabled."

"Could the increasing expenses in the social area be due to the fact that for years, the municipalities have often failed to grant the right and preventive help in order to save money in the short term? When people do not get the right help in time, in many situations, they will need even more help later on. Funnily enough, the municipalities have not saved anything at all but have only contributed to the eventual increase in expenses in the area."

"I'm pretty tired of hearing people in need of help being referred to as a spending pressure. Why has it become okay to refer to people that way? Isn't the task of the welfare society precisely to help people who need it?"

A historic demonstration

On the 22nd of May, a historic demonstration took place outside Christiansborg, the Danish Parliament, against the newly proposed handicap reform. The #undskyldvierher (sorry we are here) demonstration drew over 3,000 participants, including parents, citizens with various disabilities, and representatives from 55 organisations advocating for the rights of people with disabilities.

The demonstrators gathered to voice their concerns about the reform, arguing that it undermines crucial support systems essential for their independence and quality of life. Our Founder and Editor, Lyndsay Jensen, remarked, "The atmosphere was amazing with speeches, music, chants, and personal stories highlighting the daily struggles faced by people with disabilities."

Despite the significant turnout and passionate pleas from attendees, the demonstration received very little attention from local media. Politically, support was limited, with only Enhedslisten and SF publicly backing the cause through a handful of pictures and videos shared on social media.

The lack of broader media coverage and political support has been a point of frustration for both organisers and participants, who feel their voices are not being heard. The protest emphasised the urgent need for more inclusive policies and greater societal awareness of the challenges faced by people with disabilities in Denmark.

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