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Children deprived of a Family Environment (art. 20)

  1. In 2006, applications for placements in treatment homes were altogether 194, 106 regarding boys, and 88 regarding girls (see table in para. 111). 90 of the applications were in Reykjavik, 59 in the vicinity of Reykjavik and 45 in rural areas (see table in para. 112). The reasons for most of the applications for the placement of children in treatment homes were behaviour problems, consumption of alcohol and drugs, learning difficulties, and vagrancy (see table in para. 113) According to the applications for placement in a treatment home, the family circumstances in most cases involved single mothers (32.5 percent), followed by biological parents (22 percent), and mother/stepfather (22 percent) (see table in para. 114).

  1. Applications for placement in treatment homes by gender and age are as follows (2002-2006):

Children with Disabilities (art. 23)


143. All parents of disabled children in Iceland receive financial assistance from the Social Insurance Administration in accordance to the severity of the disability of their child. According to the statistics of the Social Insurance Administration the total number of disabled, chronically ill and impaired children whose parents received financial assistance in the year 2005 was 5.371, which amounts to 6,8% of the children in the age of 0-17 years in Iceland. It can be assumed that the percentage is similar this year (2008), which should amount to appr. 6.000 children taken into account the increase in population.

144. The nature of disability is not disaggregated in official statistics but it can be assumed from the prevalence of the different disabilities that parents of 2,5% (1950) of all children 0-17 years receive financial aid or other assistance due to developmental disorders (mental deficiency, severe ADHD and related disorders), parents of 0,8% (630) due to physical disorders (motor, visual and auditory impairments) and parents of 0,6% (480) due to pervasive developmental disorders (autism, Asperger and related disorders). In total, children whose parents get financial aid or other assistance due to their disability are 3,9% (3060) of all children 0-17 years. Other children mentioned above whose parents receive financial aid from the Social Insurance Administration have long term illnesses.

145. Act No. 22/2006 on payments to parents of chronically ill or severely disabled children entered into force 1 July 2006. The Act was amended with Act No. 158/2007 which entered into force 1 January 2008. Regulation No. 1277/2007 is also in force. Article 1 of the Act states that the law applies to the rights of parents for financial support when they can neither work nor study because of special care required by their children who have been diagnosed with serious and chronic illnesses or severe disabilities. In article 2 it is stated that the Act’s objectives are to secure financial support for parents of children with chronic illnesses or severe disabilities when they can neither work nor study because their children need special care. Therefore, these payments are meant to meet the loss of income that parents of chronically ill or severely disabled children suffer. This is the joint right of both parents. Parents who are eligible for payments are: (1) Parents on the labour market, (2) Parents who are in school; (3) Parents not on the labour market or parents who have fully used their rights as a parent on the labour market or as a student may be eligible for basic payments. Payments shall amount to 80% of the average total wages based on a 12 month period, starting two months before the child was diagnosed. Calculations for payments to a self-employed parent shall be based on income for the year (calendar year) before the year of diagnosis. Payments to a parent may start as of the date when payments of full wages cease from an employer as well as payments from a union’s sickness and support fund paid due to the child’s illness or disability.


146. The Preschool Act states that all disabled children are to enjoy the services of preschools, which are generally available to children above the age of 1 ½ -2 years and run by the municipalities. Special care, necessary training and other remedies are provided to these children by specially trained staff. Generally the municipalities all over the country provide the necessary funding to fulfil their duties in this regard and take pride in doing so.

147. The same applies, by law, to primary schools. Children with developmental disorders generally attend regular schools, at least during the first years in school, whatever the disability may be. Primary schools are run by the municipalities. They are obligated by law to meet the needs of children with developmental disorders and generally do so quite well. Special teachers and developmental therapists are hired as needed. Schools get extra allocations from the State to fulfil this duty. A fund governed by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Security grants money for that purpose, according to the assessed degree of special needs.

148. A relatively new regulation, issued by the Ministry of Education, ensures that disabled youngsters are offered education and vocational training up to four years in special classes in secondary schools all over the country.

149. Inclusion of disabled children into regular schools is the aim and objective of the authorities in Iceland. Therefore, the vast majority of disabled children attend regular schools unless their parents prefer special schools. In the regular schools the children are provided with special education and other assistance as needed.

150. There are two special schools in Iceland, one for mild/moderate developmental disorders, another for severe mental and/or physical disabilities. Some parents prefer these in the latter years of primary school. In the school mentioned first, for the mild/moderate developmental disorders, there now (2007-2008) are 98 students between 6-16 years of age. This amounts to 0,2% of all children in that age group. In the school mentioned second, there are 25 students, amounting to 0,05% of all children in that age group.

151. This means that all other children attend regular schools, i.e. 99,75%. It should be mentioned that in a number of regular schools there are special classes for disabled children. These classes are tied to regular classes which the disabled children also attend when that is considered suitable. Hence, the disabled children in question are categorised as attending regular schools with special assistance.

152. The new Preschool Act, No. 90/2008, Primary School Act, No. 91/2008, and Secondary School Act, No. 92/2008, ensure the rights of the disabled even further. The Acts specifically address the situation of disabled children and children with learning dysfunctions. This is stated most clearly in Article 17 of the Primary School Act, No. 91/2008, which has specific instructions on the rights of students with special needs and stipulates that their learning needs shall be met in public primary schools without discrimination, irrespective of their physical or mental capacity:

  1. Students who have learning difficulties due to specific learning dysfunctions, emotional or social dysfunctions and/or disability, pursuant to Acts on disability issues, students with dyslexia, students with chronic illnesses, and also students with special needs because of health issues, are entitled to learning support in accordance with their assessed special needs.

  2. Furthermore, it is reaffirmed that it is the right of students who, by doctor’s opinion, are not able to attend school due to illness or accidents, to be provided with special tuition.

  3. In chapter VIII of the Preschool Act, professional service for children in preschools is covered. Based on the fact that children who need special assistance and training, assessed by a recognised diagnostician, are entitled to such service, the municipalities shall strive to have such professional service for children take place within preschools.

  4. Students’ entitlement to school counselling is also defined but not the extent of school and vocational guidance or how such guidance is to be arranged. In the Act in force, there is a special provision concerning school counselling in an article concerning professional service, and the main curriculum for primary schools includes a provision on school counselling. Instead of considering school counselling as a part of professional service, the entitlement of students to acquire school counselling and education concerning choice of education and occupation is defined. This change is in line with various other provisions where the Act is intended to ensure the entitlement of students to a service without indicating specifically in what manner the service should be provided or to what extent.

153. In November 2007, the Minister of Social Affairs set up a working group concerning service for disabled young people 16–20 years of age. The aim of the working group is to deal with services for young disabled persons aged 16–20 years after the end of the school day in secondary schools, estimate the number of secondary school students who would use such service, estimate cost for each young person using the service and examine the cost divisions between the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Affairs and the municipalities because of this project.


153. Very few children in Iceland live permanently in institutions; 20 children (0,03% of all children 0-17 years), mainly adolescents aged 12-17 years do, however, live in small group homes, run by the state or municipalities, due to severe disabilities and/or the social/health conditions of their families. It can be assumed that 50% of this group lives there due to severe autism and 50% because of a severe physical and mental disability. It can be assumed that approximately the same number (20 children, 0,03%) live in foster care, not due to disabilities but due to social or health conditions in their families

158. The government’s policy in matters concerning children with chronic illnesses from the year 2000 provides for more solutions concerning nursing and long-term treatment of children and young persons with chronic illnesses. Special emphasis was to be put on the establishment of a nursing home for children with chronic illnesses at the completion of the Children’s Hospital (Barnaspítali Hringsins). In 2004, financial support was secured, for the first time in the general budget, for a nursing home of that kind, and the home opened at the end of March that year under the name of Rjóður. Landspítali University Hospital is responsible for the operation of the home, which is intended for 10-12 disabled and chronically ill children at a time who benefit from the rest and rehabilitation service offered there.

160. A regulation, published in 2006, provides for payments for two escorts (instead of one) if a patient is younger than 18 years of age and needs to go abroad for urgent treatment for his or her illness. This is a great benefit for families with severely disabled children or with children that have diseases that cannot be treated in Iceland.

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State report

References to children with disabilities in the State report:

2004, Act on the Punishment of Sexual Crimes and Protection of Victims Thereof : Stipulated dedicated prosecutors and police officers be assigned to sexual crimes cases; also required testimonies to be recorded on video; Permitted a person who has the confidence of the victim to be present during investigation; Revised guidelines for investigating victims of sexual violence who are under 13 and/or has disabilities

2007, Act on the Prohibition of Discrimination against Disabled Persons and the Protection of Their Rights: Aimed at achieving full social participation of people with physical challenges and ensuring their equal rights; Proscribed all forms of discrimination against the physically challenged and provided for their access to due conveniences

2007, ^ Act on Special Education for Disabled Persons, etc: Focused on providing a comprehensive educational environment for children with physical challenges

35. The Government has substantially increased social investment in order to guarantee equitable access to opportunities for children and youths in poverty. Such investment was made to provide better public health services—e.g. free medical services—for children under 18 in low income families and expand the nationwide network of children’s centers. A part of the public investment went to the Dream Start Project and to the introduction of the Child Development Account. The Government also sought to provide a basic standard of living for children with physical challenges. In 2007, the disability benefit for children was raised to a maximum of 200,000 won per month, and the number of beneficiaries also grew dramatically from 2,617 in 2002 to 23,000 in 2007.

76. The principle of prohibiting discrimination as stipulated in article 2 has been integrated into newly enacted or amended legislations that may impact children. Examples include the Juvenile Welfare Support Act enacted in 2004, amendments to Child Welfare Act in 2006, the Act on the Prohibition of Discrimination against Disabled Persons and Protection of Their Rights and the Act on Special Education for Disabled Persons, both enacted in 2007. In 2008, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was amended to give children of illegal aliens the opportunity to receive compulsory education only with a confirmation of their residence. The Government also provides assistance so that children with multicultural background or whose family has defected from North Korea can live in security and be free from all forms of discrimination.

77. The Korean Constitution prohibits discrimination in all aspects of life, and legislation affecting children is in accord with this principle. Legislation such as the Juvenile Welfare Support Act enacted in 2004 and the Child Welfare Act amended in 2006 explicitly condemn discrimination.

∙ Child Welfare Act, Article 3: “Children shall grow up free of discrimination based on gender, age, religion, social status, property, disabilities, place of birth, race, etc. of themselves and/or their parents.”

∙ Framework Act on Education, Article 4: “No citizen shall be treated with discrimination in education based on sex, religion, faith, race, social standing, economic status, or physical conditions, etc.”

^ Act on the Prohibition of Discrimination against Disabled Persons and the Protection of Their Rights, Article 1: “The purpose of this Act is to prohibit in all aspects of life discrimination on account of disabilities and to make effective remedies for infringement of rights and interests suffered by persons who were subject to such discrimination. The Act thus purports to enable disadvantaged persons to fully participate in society and enjoy equal rights, so that they may ultimately realize their inherent dignity and value as human beings.”

78. In March 2007, the Government signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which aims to protect the rights of disabled persons in all aspects of life. The Convention is pending ratification by the National Assembly. Once ratified, the Convention together with the Welfare of Disabled Persons Act and the Act on the Prohibition of Discrimination against Disabled Persons and Protection of Their Rights will serve as a legal and institutional basis for promoting the rights and interests of people with disabilities.

79. In accordance with the Act on the Prohibition of Discrimination against Disabled Persons and Protection of Their Rights, the person responsible for the education of the disabled child cannot coerce the child to enter a school or transfer to another. The Act stipulates that no one can keep a child with disabilities from participating in classes and extracurricular activities organized by the school—such as, experiments, school trips, etc.—on account of the child’s disabilities. The Act also requires the provision of convenient facilities necessary for commuting to and from school, moving on school grounds, and participating in educational activities.

80. The Act on Special Education for the Disabled, Etc. was enacted in May 2007. The Act aims to provide an adequate educational environment for children with disabilities and/or persons with special educational needs. The Act also recommends that education be customized based on the type and degree of the child’s disability as well as at what stage the child is in his/her lifecycle in order to foster their development and integration with the society.

205. To effectively stem child abuse, the Government opened more child protection agencies resulting in an increase from 17 agencies in 2000 to 44 in 2007. At the same time, online training has been provided to professionals who fall under the category of persons responsible for reporting child abuse. This category of people with the obligation to report child abuse has been re-defined with the amendment of the Child Welfare Act in 2006 so that it includes the heads, teachers, and staff of kindergartens, the management and instructors of private learning institutes, and members of fire and rescue squads.

Persons responsible for reporting child abuse include:

Teachers, medical professionals who practice medicine in medical institutions, the heads and the staff of child welfare facilities, persons who provide counsel, treatment, training and/or assistance in recuperation to disabled children in welfare facilities dedicated to serving people with disabilities, workers in childcare institutions, the heads, teachers, and employees of kindergartens, the heads, instructors, and staff of private learning institutes, members of rescue squads, heads and/or employees of assistance and counseling centers for victims of sexual traffic, heads or staff of counseling centers for single-parent families, the staff of agencies for protection of domestic violence victims, child welfare guidance officers, and public social work officers.

238. Foster homes receive childrearing subsidy. Children in care are beneficiaries of the National basic livelihood security and thus, receive living, medical, and education allowances. Since 2006, children in care have been also entitled to disability benefits of up to 100,000 won annually for behavioral disabilities, and in-patient and out-patient medical expenses. Moreover, if caretakers (foster parents or relatives) of alternative childrearing live in rental homes smaller than 85m2, the Government either provides key money for bigger rental housing or a down payment for public leased housing.

^ Group home

239. The Government provides care to children through not only foster homes but also group homes. Group homes are a form of a community-based family-oriented care services different from the existing institutional care. The Child Welfare Act was amended in January 2004 to include group homes as one of the child welfare facilities. The number of group homes quadrupled from 71 households in 2003 to 276 households in 2007.

240. Group homes are divided into short-term, long-term, and treatment-based care. Short-term care is for children unable to live with their guardians or relatives due to financial distress, marital problems of the parents, parents’ separation, incarceration, child abuse, etc. Long-term care is for child-headed families or children placed in welfare facilities, and children requiring long-term care. Treatment-based care is for children experiencing maladjustment in facility care or emotional problems unsuitable for facility care.

241. Children living in group homes receive the National basic livelihood security and children also receive allowance to assist their self-reliance when they leave group homes.

243. The Government has been providing support to adopting families to promote greater national adoptions. Childrearing and medical allowances are subsidized for families who adopt children with disabilities, children suffering from illnesses related to premature or underweight births, children who become ill due to inborn factors, etc.

^ Sunflower Children Center and One-Stop Support Center

254. There are three Sunflower Children Centers in operation since 2004 to help children under age 13 and/or with mental disabilities who have suffered sexual abuse. Medical professionals, child psychologists, lawyers, professional sex counselors provide support to these Centers. The National Police Agency and the Ministry of Gender Equality have operated 15 One-Stop Support Centers for abused women and victims of school violence across the nation since 2005 to provide a one-stop service to victims of child sexual abuse, school violence and sex trafficking. Both Centers offer comprehensive services including counseling, medical, investigative, and legal services regarding physical and psychological damages. The Centers’ efforts are backed by other centers such as the National Youth Shelters, sex trafficking victims help centers, rehabilitation centers, youth counseling centers, etc.

(2) Children with Disabilities

CRC/C/15/Add. 197, para. 51:

The Committee recommends that the State party, in accordance with the recommendations arising from the Committee’s day of general discussion, held in 1997, on children with disabilities, and the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (General Assembly resolution 48/96, annex):

(a) Take effective measures to combat the culture of discrimination against children with disabilities, including through awareness-raising and education campaigns aimed at parents, children, teachers and the general public;

(b) Undertake a comprehensive survey of the number of children with disabilities, including those currently not attending school, which assesses their educational needs and access to education and other social services;

(c) Expand existing programmes aimed at improving the physical access of children with disabilities to public buildings and areas, including schools and recreational facilities, and increase the number of integrated education programmes at pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

281. The Government enacted the Act on the Prohibition of Discrimination against Disabled Persons and the Protection of Their Rights in 2007 and has been implementing a range of promotional activities to eliminate discrimination against children with disabilities. The Government has also regularly surveyed persons with disabilities and built barrier free facilities to enhance their physical access to public facilities and schools since 2003. In particular, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea has strengthened remedial measures for discriminatory acts by setting up disability discrimination committee to redress discrimination against the disabled. Furthermore, the Government’s key policy agenda includes promotion of integrated education catering to the unique development needs of children with disabilities and thus, the Government has been establishing special education support centers and dispatching special education instructors, etc.

(a) Eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities

282. In 2007, the Government enacted the Act on the Prohibition of Discrimination against Disabled Persons and the Protection of Their Rights and has endeavored to eliminate discriminations against and improve the rights of persons with disabilities with Korea’s accession to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities among other endeavors.

283. The ^ Act on the Prohibition of Discrimination against Disabled Persons and the Protection of Their Rights defined the scope of discriminatory acts including direct and indirect discrimination, refusal to provide legitimate accommodation, discriminatory advertisements, disability-based violence, etc. The scope also includes interfering with the rightful use of a guide dog or an auxiliary aid by a person with disability, and/or by a parent or guardian of a child with disability, or any person reasonably recognized to offer assistance to a person with disability. Notwithstanding the defined scope, the Act prescribes that no discrimination shall be found if refraining from any of discriminatory acts would incur excessive burden or undue hardship, or would be inevitable due to the nature of particular tasks or business operations. Also, affirmative measures to accomplish genuine equal rights for and to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities shall not be deemed as discriminatory acts.

284. The Act prescribed six sections to cover areas where persons with disabilities could encounter discrimination: Employment; Education; Provision and Use of Goods and Services; Judicial and Administrative Procedures, Services and Political Rights; Motherhood, Fatherhood, Sexuality, Etc.; and Family, Home, Welfare Facilities, Right to Health, Etc. Furthermore, the Act has a separate chapter to address anti-discrimination and relief against women and children with disabilities in light of the growing number of women with disabilities and increasing burden posed to families with children with disabilities.

285. Children who are discriminated on the basis of their disabilities can file a petition with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Prior to the enactment of the ^ Act on the Prohibition of Discrimination against Disabled Persons and the Protection of Their Rights, the NHRCK did not have any means to enforce the Commission’s recommendation to correct any discriminatory act in the case of non-compliance. The Act has also introduced a wide range of remedial measures for non-compliance such as the power granted to the Ministry of Justice to issue remedial order for an injury of discrimination believed to be extensive and to have significant impact on public interest, and to impose a fine of up to 30 million won.

286. The Act has an article on compensation for damages arising from a discriminatory act which divides the burden of proof to both the plaintiff and defendant in consideration of the difficulty experienced by persons with disabilities in accessing information and the uniqueness of a discriminatory act in dispute. The Act provides real relief to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. In other words, if the court finds discrimination against a victim, the court may order appropriate relief measures for a discriminatory act before reaching a decision, including discontinuance of such discriminatory act. Also, if the court finds that a discriminatory act has been committed and such act was malicious, the court may sentence the discriminator to an imprisonment of not more than three years or monetary penalty not exceeding thirty million won.

(b) Comprehensive survey on children with disabilities

287. The survey of persons with disabilities in 2005 was far more comprehensive to go beyond simply reporting the number of children with disabilities. It conducted individual interviews and checked the status of the disability criteria, households, and social welfare facilities for the disabled. The study on children with disabilities focused on the current utilization and demand for childcare services, school enrollment and non-enrollment status, usage and demand for rehabilitation services (physical therapy) etc. The comprehensive survey was previously scheduled to be conducted every five years but the interval was shortened to three years in 2007.

(c) Improved physical access and integrated education

288. Pursuant to the Act on the Promotion & Guarantee of Access for the Disabled, the Aged and Pregnant Women to Facilities and Information, the Government has been operating a wide range of convenient facilities at public buildings and facilities to ensure safe and convenient access and ease of use to children with disabilities.

289. School facilities and its environs were overhauled and full-day classes at special education institutions and after-school classes in regular schools have been in operation since 2005. The Government announced the 5-Year Special School Modernization Plan in 2004 and newly built or upgraded aging facilities in 40 special schools in 2004, 53 schools in 2005, and 30 schools in 2006. In 2007, 35 schools were renovated.

290. The Government formulated and implemented the first Comprehensive Plan for the Development of Special Education (1998~2002) to guarantee the right of disabled children to education and to increase services tailored to their needs. In 2003, the Government formulated the second Comprehensive Plan for the Development of Special Education (2003~2007). According to this plan, it implemented policies to expand education opportunities for disabled students, laid the foundation for integrated education, expanded support services for special education and expanded the disabled students’ opportunities for higher education, etc. In particular, the Government implemented projects to raise social awareness by creating and distributing educational materials and organizing diverse events to promote better understanding of persons with disabilities.

291. Integrated education for children with disabilities is provided at special and regular classes in regular schools. To guarantee the right of disabled children to education, the Government has dispatched special education instructors to both special and regular schools to safeguard these children to support teaching and learning activities, and manage problematic behaviors, etc.

292. The Government dispatched 2,400 special education instructors in 2006 and additionally assigned Military Public Service Personnel as special education assistants. There were 4,000 paid special education instructors and 1,222 Military Public Service Personnel in 2007, and more will be gradually dispatched in the future.

Related legislation

294. The Act on the Protection and Support of Missing Children, Etc. was enacted in 2005. There is an average of 3,000 children and persons with disabilities reported missing every year, of which some go missing for a prolonged period posing a serious problem to society. Thus, the Act aims to alleviate physical, psychological and economic sufferings of the missing children and their families, and to prevent or find missing children by creating an efficient system.

297. As prescribed under the Act on the Protection and Support of Missing Children, Etc., the National Center for Missing Children and the National Hot-line Service (#132) were set up to quickly and efficiently manage the reporting, processing, and data entry of missing children and persons with disabilities. For children placed in shelters temporarily awaiting identification and families looking for missing children, DNA samples are taken and the DNA information is entered into the National Institute of Scientific Information database to facilitate the early return of children to their families.

305. The Government recognizes the special needs of disabled children. It has been providing free childcare services for them to alleviate their guardians’ financial burden in childrearing and to facilitate their social integration.

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