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Opposition politicians in Germany are questioning the government on the future of German guardianship laws.
The questions point at the issues that they feel the government should focus on during the reform programme.
The reform aims to fully implement elements from the United Nations Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities.
An official answer from the government is expected by the end of the year.
A group of parliamentary deputies from Alliance 90/The Greens has addressed the federal government with a parliamentary question on the future of German guardianship-legislation (Betreuungsgesetz).
Every human being shall have the right to determine their participation in all aspects of society. According to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by Germany in November 2008, state authorities shall undertake necessary and appropriate measures in order to ensure and facilitate full realization of this right for persons with disabilities.
German Betreuung-law provides for legal assistance and representation of adults who cannot handle their legal affairs independently, without necessarily depriving them of their legal capacity.
On the contrary, the concept of legal assistant (Betreuer) was created to enhance and support self-determination of people with disability. Betreuer is entitled to take decision on behalf of persons concerned within the scope of authorization and in compliance with their wishes.
The group of deputies submitted their inquiry consisting of fifty questions at the end of June, demanding personalised and holistic reform of guardianship-legislation.
The initiators are reasoning that, in light of demographic and societal developments, the number of persons in need of legal assistance and representation will continue to grow substantially.
Therefore, the Alliance 90/The Greens believes that provision of professional guardianship can only be sustainable if limited to persons with high and complex needs of legal assistance; and compensated by means of strengthened upstream systems (consultations, voluntary assistance, unification of social legislation etc.) for the rest of the cases.
According to the deputies, the questions were intended to point at issues that should be taken into account in the reform process. In this respect, current legal framework and practice reviewed from the perspective of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its stipulations, mainly with regard to legal capacity of disabled persons and their full inclusion into all aspects of life.
Key points of the inquiry include compatibility of current and future federal legislation with the UN Convention, particularly regarding exercise of their civil rights; stock-taking in light of foreseen reform of Betreuung-law; its link to the reform of disability integration support mechanism; development and strengthening of so-called upstream systems of legal assistance, promotion of voluntary legal assistance etc.
Notion of reforming German legislation on guardianship is not new. The second amendment of guardianship law in 2005 provided for elaboration of evaluation report. This was released in summer 2009. Furthermore, two working groups were established within the Ministry of Justice that shall provide own inputs for the reform. The first involves experts from federal states’ ministries and the second it interdisciplinary group created within the federal Ministry itself.
Parliamentary question is an instrument by which the deputies, in principle coming from an opposition party, supervise the work of the government by demanding official explanation of its policy. The respective minister or state secretary is then required to provide a sufficient justification.
According to the Alliance 90/The Greens, their parliamentary question aims at comprehensive mapping of the matter, hoping to stir a constructive political debate and eventually provide impetus for concrete actions.
Official response of the German government shall be expected by the end of this year.