Parents of children with disability say CDAU should fall under social ministry portfolio

Government working on a new structure to address obstacles faced by persons with disability, including long-term measures.

Parents of children with disability flagged several problems that they are facing, including the operation of the Child Development Assessment Unit (CDAU) which was not being of much help due to its limited resources.

Intervention of parents during the annual general meeting of the National Association of Parents of Children with Disability, raised suggestion that the CDAU should fall within the social ministry for portfolio rather than health.

"These are not health-related matters but social problems. As it is, CDAU is just one entity within a vast ministry which is not enjoying the attention it needs," one parent said.

Another suggested that CDAU appointments should take place at schools as the parent recounted the hassle parents go through who must pick up their kids from school, take them in Gwardamangia for the appointment and back at school.

The association also said that government should increase funds given to Agenzija support for the provision of carers. It said that parents requiring a carer for just a few hours a week had been on waiting lists for years.

Addressing Social Policy Minister Marie Louise Coleiro Preca and parliamentary secretary for rights of persons with disability Franco Mercieca, a parent of a 35-year-old woman with special needs said they were still facing the same problems which they encountered when his daughter was born.

"It's useless throwing money in our way if the real issues are not addressed. Society and authorities haven't yet realised there are 27,000 persons with special needs on the island - equivalent to Gozo's population.

"If Gozo were to be abandoned in the same way disabled persons have, a revolution would erupt," the parent said.

The association added that it appreciated government for having appointed a person politically responsible of the sector. However, they still questioned how the government was to make the "real leap".

Both Minister Coleiro Preca and Franco Mercieca said that Mercieca's appointment as the man politically responsible of the rights of persons with disability was not a gesture of tokenism.

"This is not charity but something we truly believe in. Our policy will not be of throwing money where a problem arises but creating a structure that will also cover long-term solutions," Mercieca told the worried parents.

Mercieca said a government intends to work hard on support in employment, but which varied according to the type of disability.

He also said government will be reviewing the social security system to incentivise persons with disability who work instead of penalizing them. He added that government was also looking into providing small residence within the community and also a multi-unit centre.

This prompted one parent to state that he preferred seeing his son already receiving care within the community when he [the father] was still alive.

On her part, Coleiro Preca said it was unfortunate that she heard parents complaining of the same issues she heard complaining about years ago, adding she was committed to continue consulting with them in order to full address the existing problems and new ones which can arise.

"We will work hard on a macro and micro integrated plan because this government has the political will to do so. We will not come before you speaking about the millions spent but about the results achieved," she added.