News from the Ombudsman’s Office: March 2023

The new group house service for people with mental disabilities calls for a common understanding and cooperation

The Ombudsman’s Office, the Ministry of Welfare, planning regions and non-governmental organisations agree that group home services for people with mental disabilities should not be based on the old model of institutional care only in a smaller size. This service should enable residents to live a dignified life and receive the necessary individual support.

Many people with disabilities in Latvia, including people with mental disabilities, have lived in institutions or long-term social care centres for a long time. The video ‘Kārļa Story’ shows why it is essential to introduce more and more community-based services in the future. We invite you to watch it!

Orphans and children without parental care must renew the right to usu the public transport free of charge

In the past, orphans and children left without parental care could use not only regional, but also local public transport free of charge. The Cabinet of Ministers has informed the Ombudsman that the intention to renew this possibility could be viewed only in the next year’s State budget, and also if the finances allow it. According to the Ombudsman, the current situation not only affects orphans’ right to state aid, but also does not comply with the principle of socially responsible state.

Ombudsman complains to the European Commission about failure to provide accessible environment at the Smiltene Secondary School Service Hotel

The Ombudsman has appealed to the European Commission regarding the failure to provide an accessible environment at the Smiltene Secondary School Service Hotel. In the previous inspection case it was established that Smiltene municipality rebuilt a three-storey building of the Smiltene Secondary School Service Hotel with the support of EU funds, but did not provide accessible environment for people with reduced mobility, so that they could independently reach higher than the first floor of the service hotel. After several calls from the Ombudsman, the municipality did not correct the deficiency.

Ministry of Welfare agrees with the Ombudsman: violations of ethical norms in the work of Orphan and Custody Courts are unacceptable

The Ombudsman regularly receives signals about the unethical actions of employees of Orphan and Custody Courts, therefore he requested the Ministry of Welfare to update and publish the code of ethics developed by the Association of Orphan and Custody Court Employees by 17 March 2023. The Ministry of Welfare agrees with the Ombudsman that offensive attitude from employees of Orphan and Custody Courts is unacceptable. Such cases should be assessed by the employer of the Orphan and Custody Court — local government, if necessary by consulting the Ethics Commission established by the Latvian Association of Orphan and Custody Courts. The question of ethics for the employees of Orphan and Custody Courts has given rise to a wide public resonance and media interest, and on 18 April will be discussed in the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and Public Affairs.

State Revenue Service unlawfully calculated taxes in place of residents

In the inspection case on the actions of the State Revenue Service (SRS) The Ombudsman found that the institution had unlawfully completed the annual income declaration of the residents and calculated taxes instead of the payers thereof. Such actions of the SRS have a negative impact on the interests of many people. The Ombudsman has called on the SRS to revoke all unlawful decisions. In the opinion of the Ombudsman, each year before 1 March, the SRS should provide a broad explanation to the public on the mandatory nature of the submission of annual income declarations and the consequences of failure to comply with the relevant obligation.

Educating children and young people about the risks of human trafficking will continue this year

In 2023, representatives of the Ombudsman’s Office will continue the educational activities started in the previous year in children’s and youth care facilities or so-called orphanages throughout Latvia to educate children and young people about the risks of human trafficking. Trafficking in human beings is one of the most serious human rights violations, affecting a large number of people, including the most vulnerable groups, such as children and young people, due to vulnerability, helplessness, ignorance and many other factors.