'Poverty is not a perception, it is a reality' - Michael Farrugia

Ministry for the Family and Social Solidarity and Parliamentary Secretariat fir Active Ageing anf the RIghts of Persons with Disability have already achieved 70% and 78% of their electoral manifesto respectively

The family ministry affects the neediest members of our society, family and social solidarity minister Michael Farrugia said at a public consultation which is part of the series of public cabinet consultations titled Gvern li Jisma.

He added that the ministry was concerned with children, social benefits and it aimed to assist those going through financial difficulties.

Parliamentary secretary for disability and active ageing Justyne Caruana, also addressing the consultation meeting pointed out that the two ministries had worked together to ensure that poverty was effectively and realistically addressed.

Farrugia said that the ministry had already achieved 70% of its electoral manifesto and that Caruana's secretariat had already achieved 78% of its plan.

Farrugia explained that the government had decided to offer educational and employment opportunities to promote children and their educational opportunities.  

"We introduced a number of family friendly initiatives like the breakfast club, free childcare, and Klabb 316, to allow students to get a holistic education and parents to get back to work soon after they have children."

Caruana explained that given the needs of the sector, the secretariat had also achieved initiatives over and above its manifesto.

She said that the current legislation had been the first one to dedicate a secretariat to the rights of disabled people, and that the move had ensured some much needed changes in the sector  and rights of disabled people, amounting to some 35,000 people.

"Locally we have managed to drop unemployment rates among the disabled by 20% since the beginning of the administration, and that this rate is in fact the highest amongst EU countries," Caruana pointed out.

She added that the government looked forward to ten new residences for the disabled that were planned for the legislature, with four being already well in construction.

Caruana said that the government was also making a leap in the quality of the care provided to the elderly.

"There is currently an infrastructural maintenance project taking place in practically all the care homes around the country." she said adding that elderly residences had also seen various reforms like catering systems among other services.

She explained that St Vincent De Paul had also enjoyed particular attention to try and make the facility a holistic care facility for residents. She also referred to the government's efforts to address dementia and the care of those who have dementia, saying that the program was now looking to start the country's first the dementia intervention teams to offer assistance for those wo lived in their own residences with dementia.

Referring to the elderly and pensions, Farrugia added that the government was looking forward to discussion of retirement age and pensions. He explained that the government was proposing a reform of the pension system to allow those aged 65 to continue working and receive an increased pension in the future.

"Pensions don't necessarily have to come alongside retirement," Farrugia said pointing out that Malta has  a very low participation rate for the elderly.

"Active ageing  means that the elderly can effectively contribute and participate in education and employment, even after retirement," he said.  

Pointing out that today marked a day deducated to awareness of elderly abuse, Caruana said that elderly abuse was a vast issue and that the ministry was focusing on effectively reducing the issue.

"Last year's laws to tackle the issue had been strengthened by various discussions to raise awareness and teach the elderly to report such cases," she said.

"Not abandoning the elderly is not only a moral obligation, but even a legal duty," Caruana said stressing the need to show the elderly the necessary respect.  

Farrugia even considered the rights of vulnerable children and said that the government was looking forward to the reviewing of fostering and adoption laws  to truly cover the needs of the children.

"The government will also be looking to make new adoption agreements with various countries like Slovakia, Kosovo, Cambodia and Brazil among others," Farrugia said.

"The government is pushing for laws that safeguard the rights and dignity of children both directly and indirectly."

Caruana explained that the goernment was also proeparing a new policy for the rights of the child, which was currently being finalised, with the aim of coming into force by next year.