Article Italy: Legislation on Support for the Disabled

(July 27, 2016) On June 25, 2016, legislation establishing measures for the benefit of persons with disabilities entered into effect in Italy. (Law No. 112 of June 22, 2016, Provisions on Assistance Benefitting Persons with Serious Disabilities Who Are Deprived of Family Support (Law No. 112), GAZETTA UFFICIALE, No. 146 (June 24, 2016), NORMATTIVA (in Italian).) The new Law provides for the assistance, care, and protection of persons with serious disabilities, whether caused by natural aging or medical conditions, and who are deprived of family support because they are either missing both parents or their parents are not able to provide adequate support. (Id. art. 1(2).)

The stated purpose of the new legislation is to promote the well-being, full social inclusion, and autonomy of persons with disabilities through the implementation of certain key principles set forth in the Italian Constitution: inviolable rights of the person, social dignity and equality before the law, the duty and right of parents to support, raise, and educate their children, health as a fundamental right of the individual and as a collective interest, and the rights of citizens unable to work and of persons with disabilities to welfare support. (Id. art. 1(1); Constitution of the Italian Republic (Dec. 27, 1947), arts. 2, 3, 30, 32, & 38, respectively, Parliamentary Information, Archives and Publications Office of the Senate Service for Official Reports and Communication.)

The legislation also aims at implementing related provisions of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights (2000 O.J. (C364) 1, EUROPA) and of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of 2006 (A/RES/61/106 (Dec. 13, 2006), Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for  Human Rights website) ratified by Italy by Law No. 18 of March 3, 2009. (Law No. 112, art. 1(1).)

Social Benefits to Be Guaranteed Throughout the Country 

The law requires that government at all levels ensure basic health services and social care as needed by persons with serious disabilities, based on available resources and according to applicable legislation. This duty may be carried out through collaboration between municipalities. (Id. art. 2(1).)

New Financial Mechanisms 

The new legislation creates mechanisms to facilitate its financial goals, including through contributions by private individuals, insurance policies, trusts and other special funds, and contracts for the custody and administration of a beneficiary’s assets by another person or a non-profit organization. (Id. art. 1(3).)

The law creates a Fund for the Assistance of Persons with Serious Disabilities Who Are Deprived of Family Support within the Ministry of Labor and Social Policies. (Id. art. 3(1).) The initial budget of the Fund is €90 million (about US$99.1 million) for the year 2016, €38.3 million (about US$42.1 million) for the year 2017, and €56.1 million (about US$61.7 million) from the year 2018 onwards. (Id.) The specific requirements to access Fund payments will be established by a decree of the Ministry to be enacted within six months of the Law’s effective date. (Id. art. 3(2).) Regions, local entities, quasi-governmental entities, and private parties with proven experience in providing assistance to disabled persons may also contribute to the Fund. (Id. art. 4(2).) The geographic regions must define their own criteria for the allocation and withdrawal of funds for individual beneficiaries. (Id.)

The objectives of the Fund are to:

(a) strengthen programs aimed at the de-institutionalization of care for the beneficiaries, through giving home care or care in apartment groups that reproduce the housing conditions and relationships of a family home while also including the best of new technologies, in order to prevent beneficiaries from suffering social isolation;

(b) facilitate the temporary residence of beneficiaries in housing outside the family home in emergency situations, in accordance with the will of the persons with serious disabilities, or when that is not possible to ascertain, the will of their parents or guardians;

(c) implement family-type accomodation solutions and co-housing, which may include the payment of purchase costs, leases, renovations, and installation of the necessary structures and equipment in existing housing, including modalities for mutual assistance among persons with disabilities; and

(d) develop skills for the management of daily life, in order to have the beneficiaries achieve the highest possible level of autonomy. (Id. art. 4(1)(a)-(d).)

Other financial instruments include trusts, target bonds, and special funds composed of assets that are encumbered by liens for the benefit of persons with serious disabilities. (Id. art. 6(1).) These financial instruments are eligible for tax exemptions, provided that certain conditions are met, among them, that their acts of incorporation or bylaws expressly state that their purpose is to benefit persons with serious disabilities, including the need to reduce the risk of their institutionalization. (Id. arts. 6(2) & 6(3)(b).) Other corporate and registration requirements applicable to these financial instruments are also established in the Law, including obligations of trustees and managers. (Id. art. 6(3)(c)-(h).)

In the case of death of the trust beneficiary prior to the death of the trustor or the person who has instituted the special funds as established according to the new legislation, the transfer of assets and rights to the trust beneficiaries enjoys the same tax exemptions accorded to succession and donations regulated in the Law. (Id. art. 6(4).)  Municipalities may establish reduced rates or exemptions from municipal taxes applicable to the beneficiaries only as long as such measures do not create new or increased burdens on the public finances. (Id. art. 6(8).)

Insurance Policies for Persons with Serious Disabilities 

Effective on December 31, 2016, the new legislation raises the insurance premiums for insurance plans that cover the risk of death of persons with serious disabilities. (Id. art. 5(1).) The legislation appropriates government funds to offset the loss of revenue to insurers resulting from these new provisions. (Id.)

Public Education Campaign

The President of the Council of Ministers must begin an information campaign to create awareness of the provisions of the new law and other forms of public support for persons with serious disabilities, so that such persons may take advantage of the new mechanisms and instruments created by the Law, and to make the general public aware of the benefits of social inclusion of persons with serious disabilities. (Id. art. 7(1).)

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