Our Work

Evans April 16 4

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One of the aims of MFOPD incorporated in its Statute in point no 3.4  is the following: ” To represent this movement in favour of persons with disability wherever and with whoever has an influence which can improve the situation of persons with disability and their families”.

MFOPD has thus been the voice of civil society for persons with disability in Malta and also by means of various international initiatives. It has lobbied extensively with successive government authorities to ensure that the rights of persons with disability are always on the forefront of the nation’s agenda. MFOPD is constantly involved, both locally and within EU and international fora, in ensuring that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD) is properly and effectively implemented in Malta and Gozo.

In January 2017, MFOPD met with the Committee for Social Affairs in Parliament to discuss problems being encountered by persons with disability. These issues had been presented to Hon Speaker of the House a year before, marking the European Disability Week.

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The salient points from the document presented to Parliament by MFOPD basically projects the challenges that MFOPD is striving to overcome within Maltese society for the betterment of persons with disability. As such, the points below sum up the various initiatives which MFOPD feels is close to its, and its members’, heart.

• MFOPD notes with satisfaction that the issue of disability has been constantly regarded by all the local political forces as a non-partisan subject, with political consensus and cooperation being the order of the day on this issue and universally accepted as the required norm in this field. MFOPD urges all social partners and all the political forces to continue with such an established and, by now, entrenched non-partisan tradition since it would be disastrous for the local disabled community if such a situation is altered. The cause for the betterment of the persons with an impairment in Malta should never be straight-jacketed by individuals with personal agendas but should reflect the community’s consensus to continue the total integration of the disabled within all spheres of society.

• MFOPD registers its satisfaction for the continued increase in dialogue on disability issues between the authorities and the social partners. MFOPD is active in various national fora related to disability and will continue to be pro-active in calling out for necessary reforms and initiatives in this field.

Pre School Initiatives :

• Health Services needed by persons with disability should be given according to their personal needs and not according to the list of persons waiting for the required service/s. The concept of urgency in many cases in question is totally relative to the unique needs of the person in question and a proper evaluation of priorities in such listings needs to be formulated by means of an independent institution.

• Child Care Centers – do these centers cater for children with a disability? If not, what is the alternative for the parents of such children who wish to (continue) to work? It should be infinitely clear that the child care center needs of parents of children with an impairment are totally different and require different setups. MFOPD also urges the authorities to ensure that such Centers are not left as initiatives from the NGO or Foundation sector but should be properly instituted across Malta and Gozo as are regular Child Care Centers.

• Persons with disability should be financially supported to access the services they require from wherever they choose to get the service (this applies to all areas at all stages of the life of the person with disability).

Educational Sector :

• As from scholastic year 2014/15 the percentage assigned to each of the three domains of learning (formal, non-formal and informal) has been revised …. percentage weighting for forma/learning is now 65%~ 20% for non-forma/learning and 15% for informal/earning. This change will have a negative effect on the school leaving certificate for the students with disability, especially those who have an intellectual disability. MFOPD urges the authorities to come up with a percentage weighting scheme specifically for students with disability in order to ensure that such a change does not adversely affect the prospects of these students.

• The educational authorities should, as quickly as humanly possible, embark on an extensive upgrade of the LSA system so as to be genuinely beneficial for the students with an impairment. It is impossible to accept, in the 21st Century, a scenario wherein all disabilities are grouped generically, with LSAs not having professional training related to the specific disability of the student which the former need to spend the next two scholastic years with. Such a change in the Learning Support Assistant program will inevitably lead to fewer students with disability halting the educational chain due to their present situation within the scholastic system.

• Additionally, the Department of Education needs to ensure that, as is the norm within other sectors of the same Department, a reserve pool of LSAs needs to be constructed. This will altogether halt the present phenomenon wherein students with a disability are still being asked to remain at home when their LSA is absent for whatever reason, be it on sick leave, vacation leave, bereavement leave or study leave. In order to ensure the above, the educational authorities need to ensure that a proper recruitment drive is made focusing on projecting the role of the LSA not only as a proper and respected job and career but primarily a vocation within itself.

• The educational authorities should join forces with professionals from the social solidarity authorities in order to ensure that the present lack of psychological assessments throughout the scholastic years be eliminated. Regular psychological assessments, properly explained and made available to the parents in question, not only are essential requisites for the students to be properly integrated within the schooling system, but are essential for future reference when the students with disability are no longer part of the educational system.

• Students with disability are finishing their scholastic years still not ready to be employed. Whoever is responsible for analyzing such a phenomenon must ensure that these students benefit from more productive educational years in order to become employable. With the present special adult program/s, students with disability are still not yet ready and prepared for employment. We cannot accept students with an impairment who progress from the primary to the secondary educational system and, further still, enroll for two years at MCAST, and then finish the second year of post-secondary schooling with a certificate from a non-effective MCAST course and an MCAST headed reference letter stating that the student in question is good enough to be employed as a paper shredder and/or cleaner.  Students with disability do not need to spend fifteen years within the educational establishment so as to be certified to be employable as cleaners.

• Professional adult education and support to the adult students are lacking and need to be tackled.

• Total lack of professional support for the parents throughout the educational years of their children with disability is unfortunately the norm within the present system. There should be an immediate bid to create more synergy between the school and the parents of children with disability. Such a synergy will inevitably create higher attainment levels by the students in question and also a more harmonious transition from the school benches to life outside school.

• Our Education Act states that ‘It is the duty of the State- (a) to promote education and instruction; {b) to ensure the existence of a system of schools and institutions accessible to all Maltese citizens catering for the full development of the whole personality including the ability of every person to work;’- Our present system is failing with regards to persons with intellectual disability as they are leaving our system not yet with the full development of their whole personality including the ability to work.

• Educational authorities should also offer their school leaders and administrators regular induction in the constantly changing integration tools utilized for the integration of  students with disability with the rest of their colleagues. This should be an ongoing exercise not only within state schools but also within church and private schools. MFOPD regularly receives reports of integration initiatives held in said establishments which, albeit introduced genuinely by the administrators in question, are sometimes counter-productive and demeaning to the disabled student in question.

Day Centres for Persons with Disability:

• The Adult Training Centers should be properly researched and revised : the beneficiaries should be assessed and directed to a specialized program according to their abilities and needs in harmony with the Life Long Learning Education initiatives which are so beneficial to the them.

• Such centers should be upgraded and used as a continuation of the student’s educational years and where and if possible, the clients should then, be directed to employment. More synergy with specialized institutions offering government funded employment programs, be they open, alternative, supported or sheltered, should be the order of the day, instead of lack of cooperation.

• Students with disability should not be automatically transferred to these Centers …. those who, after a professional assessment, are advised to register at these Centers, should be given a personalized program which program should teach them and help them become as independent as possible. Unfortunately, the one-size-fits-all model of coping with these vulnerable persons in these programs can create negative experiences for a number of these persons in question instead of serving its proper purpose.

• Life Long Learning for persons with intellectual disability is a must and should be more strenuously tackled, with the proper collaboration of all the relevant authorities.

Employment :

• Persons with disability have a right for gainful employment. It is disrespectful to offer a person with intellectual disability some form of employment without pay on the pretence of being voluntary work as unfortunately is still being the case nowadays with some of these persons.

• Authorities should furthermore refrain from tabling projects, mostly from EU funding, which target this vulnerable group for a short time-span and offering them a form of minimal allowance whilst expecting that these persons in question are registered for non-productive jobs or chores. Such non-productive chores tend to be accepted as the society’s norm by a percentage of these individuals in question and completely defeats the many efforts of the authorities and the social partners in their quest for integrating them within the mainstream work force.

• Article 27 of the UN Conventions states: 1. States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others; this includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities. With the above article in mind, MFOPD reiterates the need that persons with disability should not be automatically directed to sheltered employment. All should be directed to supported  employment and it will be from here that persons with disability are directed to sheltered employment and this after a professional assessment.

• For the past 11 years, MFOPD has been constantly urging the government authorities to introduce the concept of professional supported employment in Malta, after its long history of success in the United States and various European countries. Furthermore, MFOPD was at the forefront in creating Malta’s national Association of Supported Employment as an institution incorporating the NGOs which work in this field and the related government authorities and institutions. It is with great satisfaction that MFOPD notes the creation of such a national association and the unveiling of the first supported employment project by the Ministry of the Family and Social Solidarity in June 2015.

• It is also with great satisfaction that the MFOPD can report that the target number of successes of vulnerable persons, including persons with disability, during the period July- December was not only reached but nearly doubled, thus ensuring a permanent testament of the importance of professional supported employment methodology in ensuring integration of the disabled within the local work force. When one considers the fact that 70% of the vulnerable persons were matched into full-time, productive jobs within the private sector, it is imperative that all the institutions involved understand that using the latest tools in job integration is a must and not a theoretical possibility.

• Notwithstanding the above, it is imperative that all institutions working on this field of socioeconomic activity, including Jobsplus, the Malta Association of Supported Employment, the Fondazzjoni Lino Spiteri and other NGOs/Foundations who work within the supported employment sphere, work hand in hand in order to decrease repetitive initiatives and mutually share information and tools on the subject in question.

• The authorities should also target the employers, not solely by means of laws and regulations which demand specific percentages of disabled employees, but also and more importantly to give them the necessary tools and information by means of funding for HR projects which will give employers the opportunity to realize that investing in employees with an impairment, if professionally matched according to the needs of the firm and the capabilities of the individuals in question, does not only make business and economic sense but also ensures loyal and hard working employees.

• MFOPD notes the various schemes presently available for inducing persons with disability to join the local work-force. MFOPD urges the continuation and expansion of such schemes which are indeed a necessity in this day and age for them.

Leisure & Independent Living :

• For the past 10 years, MFOPD has been lobbying for the creation of an Edutainment Club for persons with disability. Unfortunately in 21st century Malta, this needed tool is still far from a reality. An ever-increasing amount of persons with intellectual disability have therefore nowhere to go- which is suitable and safely adapted for their needs- to meet and make new friends.

• Persons with disability can choose to live independently in their own homes also after their parents pass away. For this to happen/ the community services should become professional and increase according to the demand. It’s high time to introduce the Personal Assistants for true independence for persons with disability.

• Community services should be strengthened and offered to all in need. Unfortunately the present system is not supporting everyone in need.

• Services for persons with disability should ensure integration and therefore designed to enable persons with disability to be included in the social life of the country.

• Transport for persons with disability is still a nightmare – public transport has its own problems with some persons spending about 2 hours to return home from school / work; transport during weekends is costly for persons with disability who wish to go out and enjoy themselves. When it comes to the visually impaired community, a number of services which used to be available in the local transport system are not available any more.

• More respite places are needed for today’s demands.

• Whilst other countries are talking – and implementing – independent living, the local scene still has the feel of being locked in obsolete language with references to residential homes for persons with disability. Independent living does not mean living without any support.

• The subsidy for the carers of old people should also be made available for the carers of the persons with disability. This will result in more persons with disability staying in their own family homes within the community. Indeed such an increase in government expenditure will be saving much more government funding should this subsidy be made available.

Other :

• It is high time that the pension for persons with disability reflects today’s needs and to make it possible for these persons to be able to live an independent life. Unfortunately, not all persons with disability can be integrated within the employment sector and living solely on the disability pension creates an immediate increase in the persons who are – or border on – the poverty line.

• It is essential that society should see in the most transparent matter that it is getting value for money spent on all (education included) the services being offered within the disability sector. MFOPD is inundated with instances, not solely reserved to bureaucratic measures, where, at a minimum, value for money is not being ensured. At a maximum, the system which is supposed to aid and assist persons with disability would be instead abusing them.

• Lack of accessibility in government and parastatal structures and venues still hinders persons with disability to reach their goals. MFOPD, whilst noting advances in this field, regrets that there has not yet been commissioned a national operation ensuring that, locality by locality, lack of accessibility is eradicated from our islands.

• Pavements and street infrastructure are not accessible to persons with disability, with a good percentage of these persons preferring to walk on the roads themselves instead of on the pavement due to the glaring need for a system overhaul in this field. Even in cases which need no infrastructural outlay, such as the implementation of audio warnings in pelican lights and zebra crossings, such initiatives are not being implemented at all or else being sporadically implemented.

• Restaurants’ chairs and tables have taken over our beaches and promenades. Whilst concurring that the authorities need to strike a balance between the needs of the commercial community and the community at large, MFOPD believes that action ought to be taken to remedy present situations where, because of these furniture and mostly illegal add-ons, persons with disability and others are being denied the pleasure to enjoy the beauty of the place / bay.

• Our national, local and European elections are not accessible for all persons with disabilities, creating a democratic deficit in the exercising of our community’s right of proper representation. Whilst noting that the discussion related to ‘The Person of Trust’ has been ongoing for many years without any practical decision on the subject in question, MFOPD joins some of its member organizations which have been lobbying for the introduction of electronic voting systems for specific citizens with disability, in order to ensure full representational rights to all.

• MFOPD registers its complete satisfaction for the success story pertaining to the Adult Down Syndrome Clinic. This clinic puts the parents’ mind at rest that when they are gone, the system will continue to monitor their children’s health. MFOPD is of the idea that this success story could be borrowed and similar clinics offered for other persons with disabilities.

Non Governmental Organizations :

• Consultations with voluntary organizations on ANY issue relating to persons with disability should, and must, take place at all time and stages of the discussions / policy making.

• Voluntary organizations are part of the civil society and thus time of meetings I conferences should be held at an appropriate time when the civil society can be present.

• Voluntary organizations working within the disability sector should be financially helped for them to continue with their sterling work within our society.

• The MFOPD and the CRPD should both be represented on Boards where decisions regarding persons with disability are being taken.

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