Social services are there for people in need of care and people with disabilities so that they can be supported in the way they themselves wish. The goal is the improvement of the living situations of these people.
Social services are the responsibility of the provinces, and are offered by them as well as by local authorities and independent welfare organisations such as Volkshilfe, Hilfswerk, the Red Cross, the Samariterbund and church-based charities such as Diakonie and Caritas.
Applications can be made to your local authority office (Gemeindeamt), the District Commission (Bezirkshauptmannschaft) or in cities the municipal authorities, plus in Vienna the Sozialzentrum and the Social Vienna Fund.
In the agreement between the Federal Government and the Länder (provinces) in accordance with Art. 15a of the Federal Constitution on joint measures for people in need of care, the provinces have undertaken to ensure that social services are offered on a decentralised and nationwide basis.
The provinces ensure that social services are appropriate and of high quality and available in sufficient amounts. A case and care management approach is applied here. This means that social services are designed to meet the needs of their clients. In addition, the support structures are coordinated with those of other organisations. The goal is to ensure quality in training and in practice.
The Infoservice of the Ministry of Social Affairs provides a comprehensive collection of offers of mobile social services and an overview of the existing residential and care homes throughout Austria. Via the Brochure Service of the Ministry of Social Affairs it is also possible to order the brochure Retirement and Care Homes in Austria (in German) free of charge (Volume CENTRAL: Upper Austria, Styria, Volume EAST: Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland, and Volume SOUTH/WEST: Carinthia, Salzburg, Tyrol, Vorarlberg).
Retirement and care homes in Austria
With increasing age, the probability of needing care and support increases. Many people eventually move to a residential or nursing/care home. Moving to a residential or care home must take place on a voluntary basis. This means that people are only admitted with their explicit agreement.
The level of costs of a home vary and depend on several factors. For example, it depends on which province the home is in and whether it is a public or private institution. In most residential and care homes, the fees are composed of a basic amount and a supplementary amount according to the person’s need for care, which is often related to their care stage in long-term care benefit.
Alongside long-term care benefit and their pension, the person’s other income is also used to cover the cost of the home. If their income is not sufficient to cover the costs of the home, social assistance and/or the minimum income system usually provide the remaining amount. Detailed information is provided by the respective residential or care homes, the relevant local or municipal authorities or the district commission (Bezirkshauptmannschaft).
Since 2013 there has been a national quality certificate for residential and care homes in Austria (NQZ). The Ministry of Social Affairs and the provinces have jointly ensured that the NQZ applies throughout the country. The certificate is awarded to homes which – going beyond the fulfilment of statutory requirements – make an effort to further develop their quality in the interests of the greatest possible degree of individual quality of life.
The legal basis for living in residential and care homes
Important legislation regarding living in residential or care homes is contained in the Residential Homes Contracts Act and the Accommodation in Residential Homes Act. The Residential Homes Contracts Act was enacted to protect the residents of residential and care homes. The Accommodation in Residential Homes Act regulates the preconditions for the permissibility of restricting the personal freedom of people with a mental illness and people with cognitive impairments in residential and care homes.
Detailed information on residence in homes, on contracts and care is also provided by the Consumer Service Portal of the Ministry of Social Affairs.
COVID-19 in residential and nursing homes
Older people are among the high-risk groups in relation to the new coronavirus. The report on COVID-19 in residential and care homes provides an analysis of the existing epidemiological data on SARS-CoV-2 infections and deaths in residential long-term care homes. The report consists of four sections:
- firstly, an analysis of the existing epidemiological data on infections and deaths in residential care homes;
- secondly, an overview of the facts and figures in Austria compared to other countries;
- thirdly, the results of the systematic surveys in care homes on the realisation of the protective measures, and
- fourthly, a discussion of suitable measures in order to be prepared for a similar situation in the future.
In summary, it can be stated that the measures which were taken in Austrian residential and care homes have contributed to a low proportion of SARS-CoV-2 cases occurring in these institutions in comparison to other countries. The increased attention which was paid to this field is also shown by a comprehensive screening strategy for nurses, carers and residents. It is an important means of being able to identify infections quickly and react accordingly, also if the number of infections increases. The study can be viewed here (in German) (PDF, 834 KB).
The discontinuation of the state’s recourse to a person’s assets to finance care
Since 1 January 2018, recourse to the assets of persons who have been admitted to residential care facilities (and to the assets of their family members, heirs and the recipients of gifts) in order to cover the costs of care is no longer admissible. From this time onwards, compensation claims could no longer be asserted, and ongoing proceedings had to be closed. Insofar as provincial laws contradicted this, the respective provisions became ineffective as of this point in time (Federal Law Gazette no. 125/2017).
Which assets cannot be seized?
This ruling covers all assets regardless of their amount. All assets which are considered as such in Austrian law remain untouched. This also includes properties (houses, flats and other buildings, land), cash and savings accounts.
Is income also covered by the discontinuation of the recourse to assets?
No. All recurring benefits and entitlements (such as pensions and maintenance) will continue to be used to cover the costs of care and are not covered by the end of the recourse to assets. If a person is accommodated in a home at the cost of the social assistance scheme, they retain 20 percent of their pension including special payments, plus ten percent of their monthly long-term care benefit at stage 3.
What is a residential care institution?
The term care is defined in the legislation on long-term care benefit and covers assistance and support services. Residential means that the person is accommodated during the day and the night and that they are entitled to long-term care benefit. These care and support services can also be provided in a facility which is designated as a facility for people with disabilities.
Are facilities for people with disabilities also covered by the discontinuation of the recourse to assets?
The Ministry of Social Affairs presumes that residential facilities which are primarily intended to provide support for people with disabilities are also covered by the provisions banning a recourse to assets, and that these provisions should be applied analogously. This also applies to alternative forms of accommodation (such as shared flats) which have an on-call service at least during the night.
Social services as a part of care and support services
Mobile and outpatient support and nursing services
Mobile and outpatient social services can facilitate the provision of care in the environment which the person in need of care is accustomed to when they would otherwise no longer be able to stay at home, and can relieve the burden on caregiving relatives. Mobile and outpatient support and care services include, for example, home helps, nursing care at home or meals on wheels.
Semi-residential day care
Day care is semi-residential care of people in need of care during the day or night once or several times a week. Day care with its structured daily routine and a range of activating and therapeutic programmes predominantly has the objective of enabling people who need care to live a relatively independent life in spite of various limitations. Semi-inpatient services are offered, for example, by geriatric day centres. Their services include a picking-up and taking home service, meals, needs-oriented care and – depending on needs and interests – therapies, excursions, events and advice for caregiving relatives.
Short-term care in residential settings
In order to relieve the burden on family members who provide care and support at home, care can be provided in a residential facility (e.g. a nursing home) for the duration of a temporary absence due to a holiday, for example.
Alternative forms of housing
Returning home after a period spent in a care home is not always possible. As an alternative to staying in a nursing/care home, a number of provinces have established shared accommodation for senior citizens. With the support of mobile social services and the assistance of social workers, former nursing home patients are enabled to live autonomous lives again.
Support for people in their everyday lives for several hours a day, and services to ease the burden on family members.
This includes offers of support for several hours a day in the home environment to promote and maintain an independent lifestyle.
Case and care management
Social services are designed to meet the needs of their clients. The provision of health care is recorded by the relevant authorities in order to set joint goals with those involved and to ensure the coordination of care provision over a certain period or over the entire course of the care provided to a person. Further information is available from the Austrian Society for Case and Care Management.
Long-term Care Fund
The Long-term Care Fund is an earmarked contribution towards safeguarding the long-term care and support services offered by the provinces, and towards their needs-based extension and development. The goal is to improve the range of care offers and to finance quality assurance measures and innovative projects. The Long-term Care Fund supports the further development of needs-based and affordable care and support services for people in need of care and their families
Two thirds of the funding for this purpose is provided by the federal government and a third by the provinces and local authorities. The legal provisions relating to the Long-term Care Fund are laid down in the Long-term Care Fund Act (Pflegefondsgesetz, PFG).
The Long-term Care Fund is based at the Ministry of Social Affairs and is jointly managed with the Ministry of Finance. Until 31 October of each year at the latest, the provinces are obliged by the provisions of the Long-term Care Fund Act to present to the Ministry of Social Affairs plans to safeguard, extend and develop care provision for the following year. With regard to the objectives of the Long-term Care Fund Act, this has the effect that the provinces regularly draw up needs and development plans for long-term care.
With the amendment to the PFG which came into effect on 1 January 2017, alongside the onward funding of the Long-term Care Fund for the years 2017- 2021 a spending path in the field of long-term care was introduced. For the extension of hospice and palliative care offers, additional earmarked funding is being made available for the period 2017-2021, to which the federal government, the provinces and the social insurance institutions are each contributing a third. Apart from this, additional control elements for the harmonisation of the services offered by the provinces in the field of long-term care were incorporated into the PFG.