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Social policy towards older and disabled people in Poland – part II

Social policy towards disabled people in Poland assumes cooperation of a few systems: formal system of social and medical, as well as educational and economic security; non-governmental initiatives; families; mutual aid and voluntary groups. The below presented article discusses formal system, however it should be stressed that a particularly great role in actions for disabled people activation is played by many local governments’ initiatives, for example: The Artistic Culture Foundation for the Disabled (Fundacja Krzewienia Kultury Artystycznej Osób Niepełnosprawnych), Synapsis Foundation (Fundacja Synapsis), The Friends of Integration Association (Stowarzyszenie Przyjaciół Integracji), Ekon Association (Stowarzyszenie Ekon), The Foundation Chance for the Blind (Fundacja Szansa dla Niewidomych), Association of Disabled People ‘Active Together’ (Stowarzyszenie na Rzecz Osób Niepełnosprawnych "Aktywni Razem”).

Disabled people’s rights are guaranteed in Poland by the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, which provides a ban on civil discrimination as well as a freedom of profession and vacancy choice. Moreover on the basis of the Article 69 of the Constitution, disabled people can count on support of the government as far as their existence security and vocational training is concerned.

Very important in this case is the social policy of European Union, which prioritizes all actions for creation of new vacancies for disabled people as well as increase in possibilities of their employment. Under the European Social Fund (Europejski Fundusz Społeczny) considerable resources are allocated for vocational activation and fight against discrimination of disabled people on the labour market as well.

Duties of public authorities towards disabled are defined in Poland by many legal acts among other: the Act on Vocational and Social Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons, the Act on Common Health Insurance, the Act on Social Security, the Act on Social Insurance System, the Act on Employment and Preventing Unemployment. A special document is the Disability Rights Charter of 1997 which confirms the inalienable rights of disabled people. What is more it imposes a responsibility on central and local governments to take actions aiming at giving disabled people access to all kind of goods and services, which as follow enable those people to fully participate in social life: access to rehabilitation, education, employment. Furthermore the Disability Rights Charter defines disabled people’s rights to treatment, medical care, social rehabilitation, education in schools with able-bodied peers as well as individual education, psychological support, employment on a free labour market according to their qualifications, education and abilities, and vocational advisory and employment agencies, social security including extra costs of disabled living, life in space without functional barriers (e.g. polling stations etc.), local government representing their community.

Government actions, as far as disabled people are concerned, are specified by the National Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons and their integration with the society. Policy towards disabled and actions assigned to non-governmental organizations in Poland is coordinated by the Government’s Plenipotentiary for Disabled People. One of the social policy priorities towards disabled people is vocational and social rehabilitation. The fundamental instrument of that rehabilitation is the National Fund for Rehabilitation of Disabled People (Państwowy Fundusz Rehabilitacji Osób Niepełnosprawnych – PFRON), which main activity is to execute the rule of disabled people’s equal chances and create a policy of their employment. PFRON allocates resources mainly to create new places of work and accommodate the existing ones to disabled people’s needs, create supported employment enterprise as well as occupational therapy workshops.

The direct institution recommended by law as the one responsible for giving disabled people a possibility to live unaided in the society is social security. The Act on Social Security classifies disability as a situation which entitles to social security. The duties of social security are to be performed closer to a disabled person as far as their place of residence in a local environment is concerned. The law transfers the key activities of social security to all local governments (boroughs and districts). It is the borough which is to solve real problems concerning e.g. transport, infrastructure accommodated to disabled people, accessibility to health and social security institutions. The local government may also assign support services for disabled people to non-governmental institutions or perform them in cooperation with those institutions. In fact those services of particular boroughs depend on their wealth.

Social support refers also to some range of financial benefits for disabled, such as social pension, attendance benefit for persons taking care of a disabled child or adult as well as compensation benefit for people unable to work.

District Family Support Centre which provides disabled people with social and vocational rehabilitation act on a district level. District Teams for Statement of Disability function by DFSCs.

District Labour Offices and Centres of Information and Professional Career Planning function at the same level. They receive financial support for professional advisory and trainings development from PFRON.

There are a few forms of disabled people employment in Poland: occupational therapy workshops, occupational activity institutions, supported employment enterprise, free labour market employment (supported employment and free employment).

The enterprises employing disabled people on a free market can count on support such as grants for remuneration, trainings, place of work adjustment to disabled people’s needs and tax exemption as well. In case of disabled persons, benefits and care allowances, social protection benefits, financial resources for social, vocational and medical rehabilitation are exempt from income tax.

The above article describes the Polish government policy towards disabled persons within different fields of its function. However we must remember that a level on which this issue is presented, that is a normative level as well as some guidelines of the social policy, are just a kind of assumptions that the government follows, as far as its policy is concerned. Social reality is created by a number of factors, whereas the real situation of disabled people is definitely much different from the bright image according to those assumptions.


Julia Siemińska

Legal Acts:

  1. The Constitution of the Republic of Poland, Journal of Laws of 1997, No. 78, item 483.
  2. Social Security Act of 12 March 2004, Journal of Laws of 2004, No. 64, item 593.
  3. The Act on Vocational and Social Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons of 27 August 1997, Journal of Laws of 1999, No. 111, item 1280.
  4. Vocational and Social Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons Act Amendment and other acts amendment of 20 December 2002, Journal of Laws of 2003, No. 7, item 79.
  5. The Act on Employment Promotion and Labour Market Institutions of 20 April 2004, Journal of Laws of 2004, No. 99, item 1001.



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