4.6 Access to quality services
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The Norwegian welfare state model ensures a broad range of welfare provisions for anyone who resides legally in the country. These provisions apply across policy areas, such as health, employment and social services. Some of the services and benefits are universal, while others target people with special needs. Most services are provided at the municipal level, supervised by the County Governor.
The Norwegian State Housing Bank (NSHB) is the government’s main implementing agency for social housing policy and uses financial measures to facilitate the achievement of housing policy goals. The most important financial measures are basic loans, start-up loans, housing grants and housing allowances. The aim of these measures is that more people will be able to obtain their own place to live either as a homeowner, or a tenant.
The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) may provide public housing for young people at risk of social exclusion. There is no specific youth programme, but there a special emphasis on young people, and vulnerable youth/youth at risk. Potential public housing candidates have to apply for housing. Housing is given by need-basis only. NAV also offers temporary accommodation (emergency).
Student University Welfare Associations usually offer subsidised housing/ student housing. There may be an upper age limit for applicants, and priority is usually given to first year students, non-local or foreign applicants and applicants with special needs. Student housing is usually not provided for PhD students as these are paid positions in Norway.
The Government’s National strategy for social housing policy 2021-2024 [Nasjonal strategi for den sosiale boligpolitikken 2021-2024] states that more people should be able to own their own home - and rent should be a safe alternative. Some notable measures described in the strategy are:
- Increased use of start-up loans to enter the housing market, especially for families with children.
- Assist more people with developmental disabilities to own their own home.
- Targeted tax deduction on savings for young people below 34 who do not own their own home.
- Strengthening of existing schemes and housing benefits.
- Strengthening of existing schemes and services for people with substance abuse problems and mental disorders.
The Norwegian social welfare system requires membership in the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme pursuant to the provisions of the National Insurance Act. National insurance contributions help to finance the National Insurance scheme. National insurance contributions are also calculated on personal income.
Anyone who resides legally in Norway (for at least 12 months) is a member of the National Insurance Scheme. Membership in the National Insurance Scheme is prerequisite for eligibility to services and benefits from the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) such as unemployment benefits, sickness benefits, family related benefits, financial assistance and temporary accommodation.
The Child Welfare Services in each municipality provides help and support to children, adolescents and parents who are experiencing challenges or difficulties within the family. The CWS may also get involved if a child needs help for other reasons, such as behavioural issues connected to drugs or alcohol. Most children receiving assistance from the CWS remain with their family while the family receives home-based assistance. In more serious cases the CWS will consider more intrusive measures. This applies to neglect, violence and abuse. The Child Welfare Act regulates the work done by the Child Welfare Services in Norway, as well as the measures available to assist children in need of protection.
Municipalities are responsible for providing necessary health services – including for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. Municipalities must provide:
- public health centres for children and young people, a school health service and care during pregnancy and post-natal care,
- a general practitioner (GP) service,
- an accident and emergency service,
- health and care services, such as home nursing care, personal assistance, nursing homes and respite services.
Municipal health services are financed by the government through the National Insurance Scheme, municipal funds, and patient charges. Health care in specialist services is financed by the government through grants to the health authorities, the National Insurance scheme, and patient charges (user fees).
Everyone, except children under sixteen and pregnant women, must pay user fees. However, the annual limit for user fees is currently just over NOK 2000. After this one is entitled to free treatment for the remainder of the year.
Children and young people up to the age of 18, persons with mental handicaps and elderly people who are receiving care services from the municipality are entitled to free dental treatment from the public dental service (county authority). Young people aged between 19 and 20 are entitled to public dental treatment, but they must pay a reduced copayment. Other adults must visit a private dentist and pay the treatment costs themselves. The National Insurance Scheme covers the cost of treatment by dentists or dental hygienists if patients are suffering from certain illnesses.
Key financial services and benefits offered by Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV):
- Unemployment benefits
- Sickness benefit
- Family related benefits
- Financial assistance
- Financial advice and debt counselling
- Occupational injury and illness
Young people under the age of 30 who receive social assistance in Norway are now required to participate in work-related activities.
The County Governor supervises municipal activity and serves as the administrative appeals body for many municipal decisions. The County Governor is the sectoral government authority for a range of important policy fields. As the sectoral government authority, the County Governor represents several ministries, as well as the directorates and central supervisory authorities which these encompass. The County Governor works to safeguard the rule of law, both as the administrative appeals body for municipal decisions and as the supervisory authority for central welfare issues which fall within the municipalities’ remit.
The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) provides the parliament with a comprehensive and independent audit of the government. The Parliament can instruct the OAG to initiate special audits.