Why is Sweden denying disabled people assistants?

4:08 min

Sweden's welfare agency refuses six out of seven requests for personal assistants for disabled people, according to new figures. Katarina Drougge fought to overturn her refusal – and won.

Cecilia Hansson has been working as Katharina Drougge's assistant for just over a year. She is one of the many working one on one with disabled people since Sweden’s service and support law for disabled people, the so-called LSS law, gave all disabled people the right to such support back in 1993.

Drougge has had an assistant since she developed a rare muscle disease more than 20 years ago, but at a few years back, the authorities suddenly tried to take her assistance away.

"It's an economic question for Sweden," she says. "It's turned out to be very expensive to give people the rights they have under the law. You have to try to take it away from them and hope they don't go to the courts," she says.

This is happening more and more. In January, record numbers of disabled people had their requests for an assistant turned down, with Sweden's welfare agency, Försäkringskassan, refusing 86 percent of requests.

"I don't want to talk bad about Sweden. We have laws that enforce the rights of disabled people. But in reality, when it comes to money they try to eliminate those who have the rights to have it."

Drougge hired a top lawyer, submitted eleven medical statements, and publicised her case in the media. After all of this, she successfully won back her funding, but she worries that many others lack the education and ability to fight for their rights. 

On Monday, Åsa Regnér, Sweden's minister for children, old people, and equality, said the government was looking into changing the law to make sure that more of the disabled people who need support actually receive it.