A man in a wheelchair angling on a bridge.

Coronavirus pandemic impacts operation of disability services in 2020

The state of emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic affected the customer numbers, performances and costs of disability services in the six largest cities in Finland. As regards work and day activities for the intellectually disabled, days of use dropped by 25.2% in the six largest cities compared to 2019.

The impacts of the state of emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic were also clearly evident in the implementation of transport services. The long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic on disability services are difficult to assess and, for example, the delayed service deficit and its cost impacts resulting from the closure of certain services are difficult to anticipate. In terms of the organisation of disability services, the most notable permanent result of the coronavirus pandemic is the increased use of remote connections and digital services. Customers will also continue to be provided with remote guidance going forwards. However, only some disability services can be arranged remotely.

In 2020, the total costs of disability services in the six largest cities in Finland stood at €493.9 million, which is 2.9% less than in the previous year. Compared to 2016, costs have increased by 9.8%. The majority of the costs of all disability services is formed by 24-hour residential services for the six largest cities and individual municipalities. The net costs of services for the intellectually disabled increased from the previous year by 1.1% to €282.2 million. The costs of services for the intellectually disabled have increased by 12.5% since 2016.

Services are provided under the Act on Disability Services and Assistance and Act on Special Care for People with Intellectual Disabilities

In recent years, the total customer number of disability services has remained largely the same in the six largest cities, but the number of customers has varied within specific service packages. The number of people who received services specified in the Act on Disability Services and Assistance decreased from the previous year by 5.6%, and the share of those who received services under the Act on Special Care for People with Intellectual Disabilities increased by 0.3%. The increased number of customers in services for the intellectually disabled is a result of migration – particularly the increased proportion of foreign language speakers in large cities. The increase may also be partially explained by advances in diagnosis and the longer life spans of customers. Of the population, 1.7% is covered by disability services and 0.4% by services for the intellectually disabled.

The majority of the costs of disability services is formed by organisation of the three service types with the highest customer numbers: personal assistance, transport services and sheltered housing for the severely disabled. Most of the recipients of a positive service decision under the Act on Disability Services and Assistance are older than 65. In recent years, the increase in the customer numbers of disability services has clearly focused on personal assistance services. For personal assistance services, the number of customers has increased by 29.3% from 2016. The use of a service voucher as a means of organising personal assistance has become significantly more common in the past decade.

The structural reform of residential services is most evident in the substantial increase of supported housing. Compared to 2016, customer numbers have increased by 58.8% for supported housing, whereas the number of disabled persons in institutional care has decreased by more than 50% in the same time frame.

The results are presented in the Kuusikko working groups publication, which describes the use and costs disability services in the six largest cities last year. The 2020 report also describes the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the disability services of the six largest cities.

Read more:

Comparison of disability services and costs in the six largest cities in 2020  (in Finnish only)

Kuusikko working group (in Finnish only)

Statistics and research data on Helsinki


Photo: Laura Oja, City of Helsinki Media Bank.