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The right to social security assistance of civilians who became disabled as a result of the hostilities in Donbass – HFHR’s Report

♦ Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has published a report on the right to social security assistance of civilians who became disabled as a result of the hostilities in Donbass.

♦ The authors of the report analyzed current legal situation regarding the right to social security assistance of civilians who became disabled as a result of the hostilities in Donbass and formulated a series of recommendations for the Supreme Council and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, as well as for the regional and local authorities and self-government bodies.

♦ This report was prepared on the basis of monitoring conducted as part of the mentoring programme for Ukrainian human rights defenders with financial support from OSCE/ODIHR.

In the territory of some areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Ukraine (hereinafter – Donbass) an armed conflict has been going on since 14 April 2014. According to the data of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 3,350 civilians were killed and between 7,000 and 9,000 civilians were injured during the conflict between 14 April 2014 and 15 February 2020. Most civilians who became disabled as a result of their injuries live in the territory where hostilities took place and are still going on. In these territories many state and utilities services are absent or access to them is significantly hindered; job opportunities are very limited. Therefore, the right to access to social security assistance in connection with disability is gaining particular importance.

On 22 May 2018, in order to meet the vital needs of persons with disabilities resulting from the war, amendments were introduced to the Law on the Status of War Veterans and Guarantees of their Social Security, defining the procedure for obtaining the status of a person with a war-related disability, as well as expanding the list of reliefs and benefits for this group of people. However, between the moment when the law came into force and 30 January 2020 (i.e. the moment of writing of the report) only 51 people received the status of persons with war-related disabilities and the vast majority of injured civilians are still not covered with appropriate social security assistance.

To examine the reasons for this situation, experts from the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights monitored the right to social security assistance of civilians who became disabled as a result of the hostilities in Donbass, and prepared this report. The study focused on the city of Slovyansk in the Donetsk region to show on the example of one locality the entire range of problems related to the right to access to social assistance in connection with disability due to the hostilities in Donbass.

As a result of the research, the authors of the report came to the conclusion that the Ukrainian state policy towards persons with disabilities resulting from the hostilities in the territory of Donbass is to a large extent declarative: in the state approach to the problems of civilians injured during the war in Donbass, considerations of protecting the state budget prevail over those of ensuring the basic necessities of life for this group of people. Among the key conclusions reached by the authors of the report, attention should be paid to the following:

  1. The right to social security assistance of civilians who became disabled as a result of the hostilities in the territory of Donbass is not fully accessible to them due to the fact that:
  • The legislation includes discriminatory provisions that significantly limit the circle of individuals entitled to receive the status of a person with war-related disability, primarily by excluding from the effect of the law the civilians who sustained injuries in the territory that is beyond the control of the Ukrainian government.
  • The procedure for obtaining the status of persons with war-related disabilities is very difficult for the injured civilians, imposing on them disproportionate demands to provide documents confirming the circumstances of their injuries. The collection of the required documentation in post-conflict areas is difficult, which in fact limits the access of persons with war-related disabilities to the social assistance to which they are entitled.
  • The activity of the state authorities in informing persons with disabilities about the procedure is practically non-existent at the central level, and although it is carried out at the regional level, it remains insufficient. The state authorities also do not have sufficient administrative capacity to effectively ensure the right to social assistance for persons with war-related disabilities.
  1. The right to social security assistance for civilians whose disabilities result from injuries sustained during the hostilities in the territory of Donbass is not fully adequate in terms of the vital needs of those persons due to the fact that:
  • In conducting medical and social assessments there is a widespread practice of understating the disability group, which entails a smaller amount of benefits and allowances for the person with disability. Moreover, when establishing the disability group, emphasis is placed on medical examination while the social aspects of disability and the need to provide psychological assistance are taken into consideration only to little extent or are entirely ignored.
  • Monthly cash payments to persons with war-related disabilities are sufficient only in the case of those who are entitled to receive an old-age or disability pension on general rules. All other individuals with war-related disabilities can receive a benefit whose level is insufficient to meet the minimum necessities of life for persons with disabilities and their families.
  • Benefits and allowances designed to cover the additional needs of persons with disabilities do not fully meet the needs of those with war-related disabilities. Not all benefits are have financial backing in the budget, persons with disabilities are unable to take advantage of many of the benefits, and some opportunities to improve the quality of life that are important to those individuals are not envisaged by the legislation.

The authors of the report also formulated a series of recommendations for the Supreme Council and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, aimed at eliminating discriminatory provisions from the legislation and simplifying the procedure for receiving the status of persons with war-related disabilities by injured civilians.

Recommendations were also formulated for the regional and local authorities and self-government bodies in order to:

  • improve the effectiveness of informing persons with disabilities,
  • strengthen the assessment of social situation in determining the disability to ensure a case-by-case approach to the needs of persons with disabilities,
  • improve the practice of various state and local government authorities in order to increase the level of observance of the right to access to social assistance of persons with war-related disabilities.

This report was prepared on the basis of monitoring conducted as part of the mentoring programme for Ukrainian human rights defenders with financial support from OSCE/ODIHR. The views and information presented in this report may not reflect the ODIHR policy and position.

 

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