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Parliamentary Walkout in Finland: A Stand against Delayed Disability Law Reform

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By: Mudassir Haider
Parliamentary Walkout in Finland: A Stand against Delayed Disability Law Reform

In a recent incident that has caused a stir in Finland’s political sphere, opposition members of the Parliament’s Social Affairs and Health Committee staged a walkout during a meeting. The reason for their protest was the government’s decision to delay the enactment of a crucial reform related to disability laws. The Act on Services for Persons with Disabilities, as the reform is known, was initially scheduled to be implemented in October. It was designed to enhance societal inclusion and improve the quality of services for individuals with disabilities. However, the government decided to postpone the enactment until 2025, much to the chagrin of the opposition MPs.

The Significance of the Reform

Despite the government’s decision, the opposition MPs deemed the bill a significant step in improving the lives of disabled people. The Committee chair, Kirsta Kiuru, claimed that the law would prevent further human rights violations, specifically referring to an incident that occurred in 2018. This is especially relevant since Finland has been criticized by the United Nations for inadequately implementing the terms of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which they signed in 2016.

Concerns Raised by the Opposition

The opposition MPs criticized the government members within the health committee for pushing the decision to delay the bill without proper consideration or consultation. They suggested that certain aspects of the bill, specifically those related to children with disabilities, could be implemented earlier, rather than waiting for the complete enactment of the law. This stance reflects the opposition’s concern for the immediate needs and rights of disabled individuals, particularly the younger generation.

The Defense from the Government

However, National Coalition Party MP Mia Laiho, chair of the committee, defended the committee’s actions. She assured that parliamentary methods were adhered to during the decision-making process. Laiho expressed concern about the practicality of implementing the bill in stages. She also hoped for improved working relations within the committee to ensure the smooth implementation of the law when it is eventually enacted.

Public Reaction to the Delay

Public displeasure with the government’s decision to delay the bill was evident in a demonstration held in July. A report revealed that one quarter of people with functional disabilities in Finland are at risk of poverty or marginalization. This equates to roughly 147,000 individuals. This statistic underscores the urgency and importance of enacting the Act on Services for Persons with Disabilities, as it could significantly improve the quality of life for these individuals.

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