At the beginning of October, we won a major lawsuit in a protracted dispute over the rights of a young man with reduced mobility. The Tallinn Administrative Court ruled that the city has behaved illegally with the young man and must provide him with dignified opportunities to participate in society.
The lawsuit began more than four years ago, when a young man with congenital central nervous system damage and consequent mobility impairment applied to the city of Tallinn for the service of a personal assistant. However, the city of Tallinn did not agree to provide the service to the extent necessary and in cooperation with Meris Velling, a sworn attorney at the Liverte law firm, we went to court. At the beginning of this month, the Tallinn Administrative Court satisfied the young man’s complaint and annulled the decision of Tallinn.
Velling stated that the focus of the long lawsuit was primarily on the issue of the standard of living of a disabled person: “In our complaint, we found that in an Estonian society that is part of a developed European social and cultural space, a standard of living that guarantees only the minimum necessary for survival cannot be considered humane. The state and local governments have a positive obligation under both the Constitution and international law to eliminate factual inequalities due to disability in a way that enables a person with a disability to exercise their rights on an equal basis with others. A complete solution must be found for the person, that meets their need for help, they shouldn’t be treated as an object.” In summary, the court found that local governments must choose a measure to help a person that best suits their individual needs. In addition, it must help to improve the quality of life of people with special needs and enable them to participate in everyday life on an equal footing with other members of society.
Kelly Grossthal, head of the Estonian Human Right Centre’s Strategic Action, explained that the centre supported the lawsuit because access to services for people with disabilities is a basic human right. “The services provided by local governments to people with disabilities often do not meet their real needs and thus the opportunities for self-realisation of these people are limited. The court ruling is a reminder to all municipalities that social welfare opportunities undoubtedly depend on the availability of sufficient resources, but people with disabilities and their needs are diverse,” explained Grossthal.
It is clear from the court judgment that the City of Tallinn did not follow the principle of a holistic approach in assessing and determining the need for personal assistance. Namely, pursuant to the Social Welfare Act, a local government has an obligation to find out a person’s need for assistance and the corresponding help, taking into account the circumstances affecting their subsistence and participation in social life. According to the court, the City of Tallinn has not analysed the suitability of the solution offered to the young man or found out which additional services and to what extent is reasonable and possible to use.
It is worth noting the court’s view that when providing accommodation for a person with special needs, it must be as close as possible to the locations of daily movements of the resident, so as not to make the person more dependent on social transport or create an additional burden of transportation costs. The city of Tallinn, on the other hand, offered a young man who had lived, worked and done his daily chores in Mustamäe for years, to move to the other end of the city – to Lasnamäe. Such a way of life would have made it more difficult, if not impossible, for the young man to work, rehabilitate and use other services.
The city of Tallinn has the right to appeal the court decision within a month.
We commend the Tallinn Administrative Court for a fair decision and thank attorney-at-law Meris Velling for her time-consuming, patient and professional work! Many thanks also to the supporters of the centre – thanks to your donations, such cases will go to court and the centre can stand up for all our rights and justice!
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