II. State Welfare Organization Failures and Abuses
In order to live an independent and dignified life within society, persons with disabilities should have access to individualized means and services including, for example, assistive equipment and technologies, comprehensive habilitation and rehabilitation services, personal assistance services, as well as adequate disability pensions, if needed. However, our research found serious shortcomings on the part of the State Welfare Organization in providing these services. Interviewees described how some SWO social workers insulted and humiliated them and often failed to provide adequate information about available services and equipment and how to access them.
In many areas in Iran, there are insufficient numbers of SWO social workers. Although national standards establish that each social worker should have no more than 150 cases, in practice many social workers have much heavier caseloads. For example, in the southern part of Kerman province, each social worker has around 1,500 cases. In Ghazvin province, there are fewer than 20 social workers for approximately 20,000 persons with disabilities. The low number of social workers has a direct impact on the quality of social work service. For example, Fatemeh, a woman with physical disabilities in Tehran, described one of the difficulties in interacting with the social worker in her local SWO office: “My social worker has so many cases to handle that she rarely remembers anyone. Their system is not electronic, so they cannot take proper notes. Each time I have to tell my story again to convince her that I really need support.”
People with disabilities also noted the lack of access to personal assistants and quality assistive devices and obstacles to obtaining affordable services such as physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and psychotherapy, which the SWO has the mandate to provide. Many people reported that the state disability pension of 1.48 million Iri ($39.36) per month was not sufficient to meet their basic needs. Others stated that they did not receive the pension at all, due to overly strict and discriminatory eligibility criteria.