In recent years, the Maltese disability sector has undergone a remarkable transformation, characterised by a steadfast commitment to addressing the needs and aspirations of persons with disabilities.
While special days dedicated to various groups within the disability sector serve as important reminders of their contributions and the need for continued inclusivity, it is the unwavering dedication to progress that truly underscores the huge efforts being made.
A comprehensive range of issues have been tackled, leading to significant improvements in accessibility, education, employment, and overall quality of life. This was possible through a harmonious approach adopted by a diverse range of stakeholders, including the Ministry and State agencies, persons with disabilities themselves, their parents or guardians, volunteer organisations, and professional personnel ranging from doctors and nurses to qualified and highly trained caregivers. Each of these contribute their unique perspectives and expertise to foster inclusive and equitable solutions.
The relentless pursuit of inclusivity in the disability sector has been guided by the fundamental principles of equality and independence. Persons with disabilities, like everyone else, deserve the opportunity to live fulfilling lives within their communities and reach their individual aspirations.
However, while individuals with disabilities have the same dreams as everyone else, they may face unique challenges in achieving their goals. Recognising these challenges, the disability sector plays a crucial role in providing the necessary support and assistance to empower them to reach their full potential. The Budget for 2024 serves as a testament to the Government’s unwavering commitment to empowering persons with disabilities.
Not a mere ‘job’
In the realm of disability support, personal assistance provided by dedicated caregivers serves as a lifeline to individuals with disabilities. Far from being a mere ‘job’, caregiving is a calling that demands compassion, patience, and a firm commitment to empowering others.
Both adults and children with disabilities depend heavily on their parents and next-of-kin, but they also find the sustained professional support of workers employed by the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), whose dedication and acumen often help make a difference. The importance of their role has been acknowledged by a new and advantageous collective agreement, aimed at further strengthening the disability sector, that was negotiated between the Industrial Relations section at the Office of the Prime Minister, the Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin, and the CRPD.
Moreover, a public consultation process was launched in October on a reform of the Personal Assistance Scheme for Persons with Disabilities – an electoral pledge. The reform is aimed at the deinstitutionalisation of persons with disabilities, providing them with a stronger sense of independence and putting their parents’ and loved ones’ minds at rest that they will continue to cope admirably after they pass away.
As part of this wide consultation process, the Malta Federation of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities (MFOPD) has published a study on Personal Assistance to Persons with Disabilities, which is in complete harmony with the work being undertaken by Aġenzija Sapport. As Oliver Scicluna, Aġenzija Sapport CEO, said in reaction to the study, “the recommendations put forward in this study are in convergence with Aġenzija Sapport’s vision of this reform”. Marthese Mugliette, President of MFOPD, has also rightly described personal assistance as an important tool for persons with disabilities to lead an independent life within their communities.
Caregivers play an indispensable role in the ongoing project of ensuring that persons with disabilities receive the assistance they need and can enjoy it as part of a holistic support system. By truly recognising the importance of caregivers, we can continue to build on the three interconnected and mutually reinforcing fundamental pillars of inclusivity, equality, and independence. These principles underpin our efforts to continue striving for a more inclusive society.
Photo: Eren Li