Why this multilingual information page?
As of December 2020, 10 months have passed since the novel coronavirus epidemic (COVID-19) came to Norway. The Norwegian Association of the Disabled has been receiving enquiries from individuals and groups of disabled persons from minority language groups asking for help to deal with the lack of information about the corona situation in Norway. We created this info brochure and translated it into several languages to reach out to persons who can hopefully benefit from more information. We include some information about the novel coronavirus, some info about the various services available to people with disabilities and their families, and references other sites that offer useful information.
This website has been developed as part of the Double Minority, Twice as Vulnerable Project, which receives financial support from IMDi. We have also made posters with information about the novel coronavirus, which can be downloaded and printed.
The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) made its way to Norway in February, and by April major sectors of society were locked down due to alarming infection rates. A new limited lockdown began in October due to a rapid rise in infection rates. The authorities will start vaccinating the population on 27 December. After three weeks, the authorities noticed that people born outside of Norway were overrepresented in the coronavirus infection statistics. The group is overrepresented in terms of infection, serious illness, hospitalisation and mortality with COVID-19 being listed as the cause.
Researchers point to various possible reasons for over-representation:
1. Lack of access to information, or lack of access to information in one’s mother tongue. Lack of access to computers, smartphones or other aids where one typically finds information.
2. More person in the household, so infections spread more readily in homes.
3. Many immigrants to Norway come from countries where the inhabitants are suspicious of the authorities, making it harder for them to trust information from the Norwegian government. Some people are afraid of being tested and vaccinated. Some scepticism is understandable, but if we are to stop the spread of the virus in Norway, we really need to trust official information and follow the rules. Testing is mandatory if you think you may be infected with SARS-CoV-2 and you should take the vaccine when it becomes available.
4. First-generation immigrants have a less secure connection to working life. Researchers believe this may make people more vulnerable to infection and more likely to infect others: Fearing a loss of income can be an obstacle to getting tested and following the rules for quarantine and isolation for people who have no right to sickness benefits or with a poor connection to working life.
6. There may be some shame associated with contracting the coronavirus, which may prevent people from getting tested. It is very important to point out that there is no shame in getting the virus. Everyone can be infected. It has nothing to do with your lifestyle. Unfortunately, the virus affects people very differently. Some get no symptoms, while it can be fatal for others, especially people in high-risk groups.
7. Some people have heard you will be fined or punished if you test positive or have infected someone else. That is not true. However, there are large fines for people who organize gatherings that are larger than what is permitted at any given time. You can also be fined for participating in gatherings with more people than is allowed, or if you do not comply with regulatory quarantine guidelines e.g. if you have been to another country or had close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
The rights of disabled persons are not set aside during a crisis or a pandemic. If a service to which you are entitled is affected by the lockdown, the authorities are obligated to safeguard your rights, no matter what. We experienced the long gap between theory and practice when society went under lockdown in March. Now that we are approaching the end of 2020, human rights organizations and the authorities have gained much experience on how different groups have been affected by the pandemic. The information on this page is based on the most common questions we received.
User-Controlled Personal Assistance (UCPA)
You have probably heard the authorities encouraging us to wash our hands thoroughly with soap and lukewarm water –good hand hygiene for you and your personal assistants is very important! This means both you and your assistant can prevent the spread of the infection. In addition to good hand hygiene, it is also important supervisors communicate adequately with all your personal assistants! Good communication is key to correcting misunderstandings and reducing uncertainties. So: wash your hands and communicate!
Besides the list, it is important to stay updated on the most recent information from your municipality or neighbourhood services office, the UCPA office and information provided by the Institute of Public Health. Check the websites for answers before contacting any agency or the authorities unless it is an emergency.
Personnel who are critical for the functioning of society:
User-controlled personal assistants are regarded as critical personnel.
Childcare for assistants:
Children of personnel who are critical for society are entitled to kindergarten, school or other offers of daycare.
What happens if my assistants are quarantined or become ill? To best attend to your needs if an assistant is quarantined or becomes ill, it is important that you already have several on-call assistants or substitutes available. Check with the assistant’s employer (supplier or municipality) and ask if they have measures in place to make the hiring process go faster. You can also contact your neighbourhood services office/municipality if you need to create a contingency plan if many assistants become ill, or you become ill.
Infection control equipment:
Make sure you have adequate infection control equipment available. Some providers of user-controlled personal assistance/municipalities distribute such equipment. Contact your supplier first for more information on how to acquire these. Many suppliers have the opportunity to order gloves, hand sanitiser and face masks, and it’s free for you. This is usually done by using the expense coverage scheme, which most suppliers have. Some also cover extra expenses for paper towels and the like; contact your supplier to find out what you can get covered. As a rule, the municipality/neighbourhood services office distributes more advanced infection control equipment such as surgical gowns, visors etc., but some suppliers can also get hold of these on their own. Stay updated on the rules for face masks for assistants in your municipality, and which routines your UCPA supplier recommends.
Disabled parents who use more assistance hours than before because their children are at home: Check with your municipal/district caseworker to see if you are eligible for more hours due to the corona situation. Remember that you have an annual framework of hours available. This means you can spend more hours during one period (like now) and fewer in another, as long as you have not spent more than your framework by the end of the year.
Working time regulations: Several suppliers have extended their working hour schemes due to the pandemic. Check for information on your supplier’s website or contact your UCPA adviser.
Family members as assistants:
Ask the supplier to make an agreement with the municipality about using a close relative (‘close relative’ means a mother, father, sibling, spouse, cohabitant partner, child and grandchild) if you need this for any reason. In principle, the municipality must pre-approve the use of close relatives. Several municipalities now deviate from this requirement. The same applies to neighbourhood districts offices in Oslo; several districts have made exceptions during the pandemic.
If you are in a high-risk group and/or you do not receive the assistance you need due to the pandemic, contact your UCPA supplier or your municipal/district case handler and ask if they have prepared a contingency plan for your scheme.
Infection control for assistants:
Assistants often spend much time in close proximity to their supervisors and must be extra careful with infection control. Remember good hand hygiene! Wash your hands with soap and water as soon as you meet your supervisor, and when you leave! Other measures may be necessary such as reduced use of public transport for assistants, changing clothes when arriving at work, use of face masks, longer shifts to reduce the number of assistants during a week, frequent disinfection of surfaces and encouraging assistants to comply with the authorities’ recommendations for individuals in your municipality/district in their spare time. Talk to your UCPA adviser to find out what measures are appropriate in your situation.
Right to an interpreter:
You may be entitled to an interpreter for all dialogue with your UCPA supplier and municipality/district, as well as training and courses. It is important for service consumers to get all relevant information regarding the pandemic and the training assistants receive about infection control and courses that are available to you as a supervisor. In cases where you need an interpreter, it is important to tell your UCPA supplier and the municipality/district.
Hand hygiene: The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has prepared some good guidelines: https://www.fhi.no/nettpub/handhygiene/
Free course for assistants
You must register to gain access to the Fag i Focus courses, but this is done quickly and easily. Many UCPA suppliers also have various courses on infection control. These are often e-learning courses and videos. Contact your supplier to find out what kind of infection control training they have for supervisors and assistants.
Important and useful links free course for assistants
Blind and visually-impaired persons
The blind and visually impaired may have difficulty knowing if they are two meters away from other people. They often need to use their hands to orient themselves in a room or on a bus. Thus, they may be extra exposed to infection. A survey conducted by the Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted shows that more people are reluctant to take public transport during the pandemic, and that more people than before are struggling with loneliness and social isolation.
As a general rule, people should have a personal escort. Hand hygiene is very important if participants need to be escorted by you or other shared escorts, especially if you need to help more people.
- In areas with high infection rates, or if other conditions indicate that special care should be taken, it may be appropriate to use a face mask to escort your client. Check the recommendations that apply in your town or district online; helsenorge.no, https://www.helsenorge.no/koronavirus/munnbind
- You and your personal escort must disinfect your hands before and after the escort session
- If there is time for it, such as on a trip, we recommend that you use a stick or similar device that is one meter long to escort your client. The stick must also be disinfected if other people will use it. The same is true for the hands.
Visitation ban for people with developmental disabilities
During the pandemic, 2700 people with developmental disabilities were subject to a visitation ban due to infection control issues. This was very serious for the people involved and their relatives. It was also illegal. The Norwegian Association of Disabled (NAD) focused on this.
Interpreting services for minority language speakers and the deaf
The hearing impaired often become invisible when it comes to oral press conferences etc. about the corona situation. Sign language interpretation is often unavailable. Døves Media og Supervisuell has created a good website that outlines information in Norwegian sign language regarding the coronavirus situation
When it comes to interpreting, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) offers attendance interpreters to some extent, i.e. an interpreter who shows up physically at a meeting; otherwise they offer screen interpretation. This depends on the risk of infection at the meeting place. Info on NAV’s website
Video interpretation can always be considered as a first alternative. Attendance interpreters must be assessed against the risk of infection for each assignment. The assignments are assessed on the basis of current government recommendations on the number of people who can gather and opportunities to comply with guidelines for recommended distances between people.
NAV Assistive Technology and Facilitation has prepared some internal guidelines for the dissemination and implementation of interpreting assignments that require attendance which meet requirements for infection control.
The Interpreting Service offers training to users who have no experience with video/screen interpretation and encourages them to use such services.
For LGBT people with disabilities
If you are a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person, there are several online events on these topics now during the pandemic. You can contact Skeiv Verden (Queer World Norway), an organization for gay people who are first- or second-generation immigrants, or SalamNorge, an organization for gay Muslims. About Skeiv Verden in different languages.
Refugees with disabilities
It is voluntary for municipalities to settle refugees, and unfortunately refugees with disabilities often stay in asylum reception centers for a long time because the municipalities see it as a financial risk to settle them. In such situations, the state gives municipalities grants for 5 years to settle people in this group, while UDI and IMDi believe the scheme should be extended to 10 years.
Assistive technology and repairs
General information webpage for NAV: NAV has created a general information page that is updated continuously with information on how the assistive technology centers are affected by the corona situation.
During a lockdown:
It is not possible to come to the assistive technology centers without an appointment. This also applies to the car centers. Their employees who can work from home will work from. Case processing is done as usual. Please contact your assistive technology center by phone.
Services and offers
All user meetings, courses, trials and training in the use of aids are postponed or cancelled during a lockdown. Non-critical tasks will also be downgraded. The delivery of aids will largely go as planned, but it may take a little longer than normal.
The centers collaborate with the municipalities and suppliers on repairs and service. This is done on the basis of available capacity.
Signatures on forms
The requirement that applicants must sign forms in assistive technology cases is waived during the lockdown and applies to:
- Applications for technical aids
- Ordering technical aids (ordering scheme)
- Help with assessment and testing
- The municipality’s signature for handing out technical aids
The exception here is cases that require permission and approval from e.g. homeowners, boards or employers. A signature must still be provided here.
NAV Car Centers
The NAV Car Centers have limited the number of physical meetings to those that are absolutely necessary during a lockdown. Visits and testing rooms will be closed, and all examinations and tests at the car centers, user’s homes and at remodellers will be cancelled.
Construction of group 2 cases and special equipment cases will continue as before. The cars are built as requested/offered, so the car cases will not stop.
Case processing until a preliminary decision is made, taxi requisitions, repairs and periodic inspections go as normal.
With regard to the delivery of cars, if the traffic stations are closed: They have previously granted dispensation for the display and approval of new NAV cars so delivery can still be carried out. Registration and signed promissory notes must still be provided before delivery.
The car remodellers will keep their operations going as long as they can. They comply with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health guidelines to limit the spread of the virus.
Activity aids and repairs
New activity aids will be granted to those over 26 years of age in 2021. Activity aids will still be repaired even if there is a new lockdown of society.
Read more about activity aids here: https://www.nav.no/no/person/hjelpmiddel/hvor-trenger-du-hjelp/dagligliv-og-fritid/aktivitetshjelpmiddel-til-personer-over-26-ar
Useful Links assistive technology and repairs
- Outline of assistive technology centers
- Article from Handikapnytt about coronavirus measures at the assistive technology centers
If you use public transport (bus, metro and tram) this is important to know:
- The Norwegian authorities recommend that everyone travel as little as possible.
- If you have to travel by bus, the driver will still lower the ramp, but they cannot provide assistance closer than one meter.
- There are no seat belts or straps for wheelchairs on regular bus routes in Oslo. On the airport bus, train and bus routes with longer distances, there may be seat belts or straps for wheelchairs. If you need help using these, you must either bring someone with you or contact Ruter / your local transport company to get a taxi instead.
If you have questions related to your local or regional public transport, we recommend you seek out information on their websites.
For parents or guardians with a child with a disability
This is our experience during the lockdown:
- Children with a great need for care are entitled to a place at school during the lockdown, but many did not get it.
- Children who are entitled to special educational assistance lost this to a large extent, during the lockdown and afterwards. The latter because special educators were used as teachers in other classes/cohorts.
- Children who are entitled to relief and support contact through the Child Welfare Services were allowed to keep these services. Many children with similar disability benefits and assistance lost their services.
Coordinator and individual plans
If you or your child needs long-term and coordinated services, the municipality/district must offer you a coordinator who will ensure necessary follow-up of the individual patient or user, as well as ensuring coordination of the service and progression work related to individual plans. Examples of services that can be long-term and that need coordination: parental home relief, User-Controlled Personal Assistance (UCPA), home nursing, habilitation or rehabilitation, practical assistance, occupational therapy and aids, physiotherapy, facilitation at school and support contact. (Two or more services may be required.)
The coordination shall ensure that the recipient of the services can influence certain aspects of the service, strengthen the cooperation between different service providers and strengthen the cooperation between the service providers and the person receiving the services, and possibly his or her relatives. Children entitled to their own coordinator often lost this during the country lockdown in March.
Useful Links for parents or guardians with a child with a disability
Information from HBF
The information below is based on a good website published by HBF:
Many parents of children with disabilities experienced difficult times when society locks down. Many only received information that the school, kindergarten or relief service was closed, and had to try to orient themselves in a jungle of constant information, in addition to assisting their children who may need follow-up 24/7.
We have received many enquiries from worried parents who could not quite imagine how this could be resolved. Many were refused help, either as teaching arrangements or alternative ways of solving the learning situation.
Children with user-controlled personal assistance (UCPA)
If a child is entitled to UCPA, one solution may be to apply for an increase in hours during this period so care tasks do not become overwhelming. Some municipalities have done excellent work to increase their services in this area and implementing this quickly, while other municipalities have a more restrictive attitude. Contact your municipality to apply for a time-limited increase in hours during this period. If you were refused an increase in hours, you can contact the Patient and User Ombudsman.
To receive a care benefit, all of these points must apply to you:
- I take care of the child during the period I am applying for.
- The child has been to treatment/examination at a hospital or other specialist health service.
- I am with the child during hospitalisation, or I am at home because the child needs care all the time.
- The child has not received alternative care services. Or the child is in a care service center 30 hours or less per week. Exceptions are considered in case of emergency or night care watch.
- I have been working at least four weeks. Sickness benefits, unemployment benefits, parental benefits, maternity benefits, care benefits and allowances and training allowance are equated with work.
- I have at least a 20 percent loss of income while caring for my child.
- My income is at least half the basic amount national insurance basic amount. (Unemployment benefits, sickness benefits, parental benefits, care benefits and training allowance are also counted as income.)
These were the rules during the lockdown: The guidelines from the Directorate of Health for closing schools and kindergartens made exceptions for children and young people with special care needs. These are important to attend to:
“Each school and kindergarten must therefore make concrete and individual assessments of which children should receive this offer. Factors in this assessment may be whether i.a. they have major physical or mental disabilities, are covered by remedial and technical assistance and other things. To prevent the spread of infection, the municipalities must apply a restrictive practice.”
We received many enquiries from desperate parents because the head teachers/rectors at the schools interpreted the guidelines in different ways. There are therefore many different experiences out there:
- kindergarten/school/SFO/relief services have closed down completely, without alternative offers
- kindergarten/school/ SFO/relief services are open to children within the target groups
- kindergarten/school/SFO/relief services are open to children with special needs, but have very strict requirements for who can come to school (the head teacher may feel the parents themselves are able to take care of their child regardless of what the parents themselves think)
- some get assistance resources at home
- some municipalities say it only applies to primary school
- some have interpreted this to mean that one must have a job that is critical for the functioning of society AND children with great care needs – to have the right to have a child attend school during a lockdown period. The interpretations seem to be as many as there are head teachers.
Helpful Linksfor parents or guardians with a child with a disability
NAKU (National Competence Environment on Developmental Disabilities) – together with the Norwegian Directorate of Health – has produced guidelines for the mentally handicapped, but which also applies to other children with great care and assistance needs. NAKU’s information page on the mentally handicapped and the coronavirus
Many of the children had their own teaching programmes during the lockdown, and the children are entitled to receive adapted teaching even if they have home schooling. Some schools found solutions for teaching arrangements for pupils in a good way, while other schools did not get that far.
The Directorate for Education and Training’s website states:
“The school owners are responsible for ensuring that pupils receive an adequate education. The schools must therefore expand efforts as far as possible and facilitate for pupils to do schoolwork at home.”
If your child has not been given an adapted teaching plan to follow, contact the head teacher or special educator and refer to the Directorate for Education and Training’s webpages, so your child can receive adequate and adapted teaching.
Transport to and from kindergarten/school/relief
Many of the children are used to regular drivers. During the pandemic, many drivers refuse to assist in such things as e.g. belting the child in a wheelchair or car seat due to the risk of infection.
The result has therefore been that many parents have chosen to drive the kids themselves. Whether you can claim a driving allowance for this or not, and where this can possibly be sent, you must ask your municipality.
Care allowance days (“sick child” days)
Parents can receive a care allowance for being at home with children when schools and kindergartens across the country are closed. But the situation from an increase in infection will be unclear and the care allowance days can quickly be used up. The number of care days for all parents doubled in 2020, but it is uncertain whether this will happen again in 2021.
In order to make it possible for parents who work in jobs that are critical for the functioning of society to continue their important work, it will be possible to transfer care allowance days between two parents. For practical reasons, access is generalised but one is encouraged to use this opportunity to ensure important societal functions.
About the care allowance in 2020 – regjeringen.no
Municipal services (kindergarten, school, relief, day care)
Children who need assistance or extra assistance (or health care) at kindergarten or school still have similar needs if they have to be at home.
The municipality is responsible for providing assistance to make sure the child and families get the support they need, even if the services are closed, and at the same time the way in which the assistance is to be provided must be taken into account to protect children from the spread of infection because many of these children are high-risk or vulnerable.
In order to find good solutions, it will be important to enter into a close dialogue and collaboration with family members to look at possible solutions, and prepare a plan for the work. The plan should contain elements that say something about what the assistance should contain, in which areas, and which persons and operators should provide assistance.
It is the municipality’s responsibility to provide good infection control routines, and the municipalities are recommended to change emergency preparedness and contingencies during the pandemic, so there are fewer people to deal with. The coronavirus created unknown and unfamiliar situations in Norway for everyone, but the fact is the municipalities are responsible for all their inhabitants.
If the municipality or neighbourhood services office does not contact you on its own initiative, get in touch with them to find out what schemes they can offer you and your family.
Care allowance: “Can I get more care allowance from the municipality if the school or kindergarten is closed”?
Some parents receive care allowance from the municipality. One alternative could be to apply for an immediate increase in the number of hours, although we know that this will not cover the actual loss of income if you have to take time off work.
It is up to the individual municipality to make a decision on this – regulations and guidelines from the Norwegian Directorate of Health or other public authorities have nothing to say about this. We also know that it takes a long time to process this type of application.
Parents with children over 18 years of age living at home who have lost their school place or daycare
These parents currently have no independent right to stay home to look after their children. As children come of age, the parents no longer have a legal parental responsibility under the law. The problem is that very few municipalities have a safety net for these inhabitants. The parents must take responsibility, of course they do, but they need to take time off from work or hope for a flexible employer. You can also apply for User-Controlled Personal Assistance (UCPA) or other services in these cases.