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Health For Members

How Spain plans to speed up and change the way it determines disability

The Local Spain
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How Spain plans to speed up and change the way it determines disability
Spain creates a new scale of disability. Photo: Josep LAGO / AFP

The Spanish government has approved a new scale for the assessment of disabilities which could speed up certain emergency procedures and long wait times for people with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), rare diseases and victims of gender violence.

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Spain's Council of Ministers on Tuesday October 18th approved a new scale of disabilities, which will now replace the current one, which has been in place since 1999.

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Those with certain types of incapacity have been unhappy with the situation and have been asking for the scale to be changed for over 10 years so that their disability will be recognised and in turn have more rights.

Waiting times of up to three years for disability recognition in Spain have been described as "distressing" and "inadmissible". In Catalonia alone, there are 40,000 people waiting to be seen, which prevents people from getting the financial help and care they need.

Typically in Spain, you need to prove you have a disability of 33 percent in order to be eligible for certain benefits. 

The new scale will bring Spain more in line with the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health that the World Health Organisation (WHO) established in 2001, focusing on human rights. 

Minister of Social Rights Ione Belarra has said the new criteria to be used will be "more objective, precise and human", judging disability based on physical factors, but also psychological and social ones. 

According to the latest data from Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), there are currently 4.3 million people with disabilities in the country.  

What does the new scale cover?

The new scale of disability establishes an urgent procedure, which will reduce the current wait time by half, for “humanitarian reasons and special social, health and life expectancy needs".

The way of evaluating disability will now be split into four different categories. 

Scale of Global Impairment of the Person which will assess the deficiencies of body functions and structures.

Scale of Limitations in Activity, which will measure the limitations in the person's capacity to carry out certain activities. 

Scale of Restrictions in Participation. This evaluates the performance of activities and includes a performance questionnaire.

Contextual and Environmental Barriers Scale, will look into factors in the person's environment that, when present or absent, interfere with their functioning.

  • This includes people with degenerative diseases such as ALS. 
  • Victims of gender violence will also be able to benefit from this emergency procedure. According to the latest Macro-survey on Violence against Women, 17.5 percent of those who have experienced gender violence have a disability caused by the abuse.

  • It will speed up wait times for those waiting for procedures so that the situation is more "flexible" and will ensure "universal accessibility". This means that some evaluations will be able to be carried out online so that the entire process will be faster.

  • Classifications are also being re-evaluated looking at some of the illnesses which cause disabilities, such as autism or rare diseases. The new scale specifically mentions the possibility of revisions in new causes of disability as they emerge or if new scientific discoveries are made.

  • Finally, the new measures will guarantee the right of minors with disabilities to be "informed, heard and listened to without discrimination based on age or disability". 

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What will the new degrees of disability be?

There will also be five different grades of disability. 

Grade 0: Represents a disability of between 0 and 4 percent. The level of disability assessed is insignificant and there is no difficulty in carrying out activities of daily living. 

Grade 1: Mild disability with between 5 and 24 percent. These people will have only mild difficulty carrying out activities in daily life. 

Grade 2: Moderate disability with between 25 and 49 percent. They will have moderate difficulty in performing daily living activities and it may even be impossible for them to carry out some of them on their own, but they can perform some form of self-care. 

Grade 3: Serious disability with between 50 and 95 percent. Serious difficulty in carrying out daily tasks. It may be impossible for them to carry them out including self-care activities. 

Grade 4: Total incapacity and 100 percent disability. For these people, it is impossible to complete daily tasks, as well as look after themselves.  

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