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Disabled protest at training cuts

Organisations for the disabled have gathered more than 100,000 signatures for a petition against cuts in funding apprenticeships for young disabled people.

The petition is a response to planned government measures aimed at saving about half the costs for the professional training of disabled youngsters as part of its revision to the invalidity insurance system.

Under the proposed measures, people receiving invalidity benefits will only get their apprenticeship financed if it is likely to enable them to earn enough to affect their disabled allowance – in other words, at least SFr855 ($970) a month. It is estimated that two thirds of potential disabled apprentices do not meet that condition.

Even before the measures had been discussed by parliament, the Federal Social Insurance Office sent round an official circular containing the modifications.

Backers of the petition are concerned by the lack of public discussion, but even more by the impact of the cuts. They say that in practice this means finance will only be approved for basic one-year apprenticeships or for purely practical training.

“The aim of training is to pass on not only professional skills, but also key qualifications like punctuality, politeness, reliability and team spirit – to name but a few,” said Michael Gehrig, of the Bad Heustrich Foundation at a ceremony in Bern to hand over the petition.

Other speakers pointed out that apprenticeships help promote integration, and said financing should not be cut for purely economic reasons.

Unlike the signatures collected to put issues to a popular vote, a petition is not binding, but merely an expression of opinion. However, Bruno Schmucki of the Procap organisation pointed out that the fact that so many signatures had been collected indicated that it would be possible to launch a referendum on the issue if necessary.

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