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National Assembly committee discusses the Ombudsman's report for 2021

Today, 7 October 2022, the National Assembly's Committee on Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Disability considered the 27th regular annual report of the Ombudsman for 2021 in the part related to the competences of the Committee.

“2021, to which the report refers, was another year heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic. It is clear from the increased number of calls and petitions from individuals that the pandemic has increased people's hardships in many areas. Once again, we received a third more cases than before 2020. There is no better mirror of a state than its attitude towards the most vulnerable. Human rights are not a distant theoretical concept, but must be accessible to everyone, along with appropriate mechanisms and legal remedies to rectify violations,” Ombudsman Svetina stressed at the meeting of the Committee on Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Disability.

Last year, the Human Rights Ombudsman’s office dealt with 335 petitions concerning social protection, 193 concerning labour relations and unemployment, and 218 concerning children's rights. It found the highest number of infringements by the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. “In order to bring the state apparatus closer to individuals, to improve the work of the various bodies, and to improve legislation and its implementation in practice, the report proposes 86 new recommendations. All recommendations are important and urgent in order to continue to maintain a high standard of respect for human rights in the future. Most of our past recommendations relating to the work of this Committee remain outstanding. This is unacceptable, and I am particularly disappointed by the poor responsiveness of the Ministry,” stressed Ombudsman Svetina.

He said that it was unacceptable that the Ministry, due to disagreement, had rejected the Ombudsman's recommendation to amend the legislation so that all persons with disabilities, both those with a status granted under the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities Act and those with a status granted under the Social Inclusion of Disabled Persons Act, would have comparable social security. The Ombudsman therefore reiterates his outstanding recommendation because he sees no justified grounds for different treatment.

“Once again, we call on the competent ministry to undertake deinstitutionalisation as a matter of urgency. I have been pointing this out since the beginning of my term, and nothing significant has changed since then. Failure to implement deinstitutionalisation constitutes a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I have repeatedly pointed out that the current situation is not in the best interests of people with disabilities and that the Ombudsman, as an institution with A status under the Paris Principles, is ready to act as an independent body to promote, protect and monitor the implementation of the Convention. I am disappointed that this summer, without consulting our office and despite our proposal that we are ready to assume the tasks of this independent body under the Convention, the draft Act on the Council of the Republic of Slovenia for Persons with Disabilities was submitted to the legislative procedure. The draft Act does not provide for the Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia to assume this task as the only national human rights institution in Slovenia. I also believe that the preamble to the draft Act is misleading and does not reflect the prevailing regime in the majority of EU Member States,” pointed out Ombudsman Svetina.

The Ombudsman therefore urged the deputies to reflect on the proposed arrangements and on the sincerity of the intention to establish an effective and independent body following the example most EU Member States, which would operate in a pluralistic, professional manner and in line with international standards, to protect, promote and monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. “The Act submitted also constitutes an unnecessary duplication of the competences of independent state institutions to a large extent, as it foresees that the Council of the Republic of Slovenia for Persons with Disabilities will assume this task. The Ombudsman is, however, already responsible for monitoring the implementation of international human rights standards in the country, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The proposed regulation could also interfere with our competences and mission,” concluded Ombudsman Peter Svetina.