The Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman has received more than 100 complaints related to the state of emergency and the coronavirus pandemic. The Office has also begun working on several issues at its own initiative.
The complaints have concerned all branches of administration. Many of the complaints are related to health care, social welfare and social insurance. There have also been large numbers of complaints concerning education and the supreme organs of the State.
Complaints under investigation
Petri Jääskeläinen, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, has begun investigating two complaints concerning the restrictions on crossing the Uusimaa County border. The first of these applies to an individual case in which the police prevented the complainant from crossing the border even though the complainant believed themselves to have a compelling reason for doing so as referred to in the Government Decree (2330/2020).
The second complaint is a more general question concerning how the police have monitored the restrictions on movement in places other than the county border. In connection with this case, the Ombudsman has also taken the initiative to investigate the police procedures for imposing fines when monitoring the restrictions on movement, among other things (2464/2020).
The Ombudsman is also investigating a complaint in which a person with a disability was denied the possibility of receiving respirator treatment in advance (2480/2020) and one concerning the operations in a residential unit for people with disabilities during the coronavirus epidemic (2219/2020).
In connection with a complaint, Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin has requested information related to the actions of the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa in limiting the right of support persons to be present in maternity hospitals (2463/2020).
The arrangement of school meals during the state of emergency has also been the subject of several complaints. Deputy-Ombudsman Pasi Pölönen has requested information related to two cases where a needs assessment from a social services office has been required in order for school meals to be arranged (2393/2020 and 2435/2020) and in a case where the school required the meal to be collected from a certain place that not every pupil/family could access (2462/2020).
Deputy-Ombudsman Pölönen has also requested information related to two complaints concerning sections of the matriculation examination being held early (2089/2020 and 2094/2020).
Some of the pending complaints have already been resolved. For example, a complaint concerning contact with children taken into foster care (2130/2020) is available for viewing (in Finnish) at www.oikeusasiamies.fi.
Complaints concerning the decisions of hospital districts in relation to persons receiving treatment (2477/2020) and on the impact of the isolation of the County of Uusimaa on Myrskylä and Pukkila health care services in Päijät-Häme (2519/2020) have not led to any action.
A complaint concerning the suspension of preparations for the monitored parole of two prisoners will no longer be processed because the Criminal Sanctions Agency has altered its guidance to the effect that preparations for parole and investigation of the associated preconditions can once again take place – following a suspension of approximately one week – including in homes where the prisoner lives with other people.
Enhanced inspections of elderly care conditions during the state of emergency
During the pandemic, there is a greater need for supervision in elderly care, but different means are now required to supervise these sites than at other times. At the initiative of Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin, inspection operations have been enhanced during the state of emergency. Inspections mainly take place by telephone and videoconferences. The nursing staff play a key role in providing information. Relatives and elderly people are also being interviewed. The Deputy-Ombudsman is monitoring the ways in which municipalities implement oversight during the state of emergency, as well as the obligation of personnel to contact the Regional State Administrative Agency if any irregularities occur.
The Office’s own initiatives
Ombudsman Jääskeläinen has begun an investigation and requested information from the Finnish Immigration Service on how the coronavirus epidemic has been taken into consideration in detention units for foreigners and reception centres (2138/2020).
Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin took the initiative in case 2446/2020 to investigate the actions that municipalities are taking during the state of emergency with regard to reducing homelessness and arranging social welfare and health care services for homeless people. Homeless people are in an even more difficult situation during the coronavirus pandemic.
Deputy-Ombudsman Pölönen has taken the initiative to investigate Kela’s decision to suspend operations at more than 50 locations (2488/2020).
He has also taken the initiative to investigate how the learning support, help for schoolgoing and school meals are being provided to pupils in basic education when they are using distance teaching methods during the state of emergency (2505/2020). The Ministry of Education and Culture has been asked to provide information on the guidelines for procedures along with any practical problems and needs for improvement that have arisen.
Deputy-Ombudsman Pölönen is monitoring the conditions in prisons and obtaining related information. Very few complaints have been received from prisons since the state of emergency began.
He issued a decision on a case that he had previously investigated on his own initiative concerning the time taken to process applications for disability pensions and rehabilitation grants (4620/2019). Kela had been unable to reach the target processing times that it had set for itself with relation to disability pensions in 2018 and 2019. A shortfall of a few person-years of work at the centre where disability pension applications are processed and at the specialist physicians’ centre were deemed to have caused the problems. The impact of the state of emergency on Kela’s work and on the processing work and processing times for benefit-related matters will only become clear in the coming months.
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