Minister of Social Development, the Honourable Eugene Hamilton. SKNIS Photo.

The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis continues to take tangible steps to improve the lives of differently-abled persons, following recommendations that were outlined in a review carried out by a consultant from the European Union, Minister of Social Development the Honourable Eugene Hamilton, said at the 10th Regional Assembly of Disabled People International North America and the Caribbean (DPI-NAC) held at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort Aug. 23-25.

The consultant, Hans Wolf, conducted a workshop with stakeholders in December 2017 to help craft a Special Needs Policy for the twin-island Federation. A draft report was presented in 2018 that was cited by Minister Hamilton, during remarks at the opening of the meeting.

“In looking at our country’s report card, we noted that we have made progress in areas of social protection, particularly education and health, however, physical access, funding, employment, and housing remain fundamental challenges, as well as the elimination of stigma and discrimination — those are the areas identified needing important work,” Minister Hamilton said.

Hamilton said that since the report card, his ministry “has taken a decision to expand our services to persons with disabilities. Individuals are able to benefit from various social protection programmes once eligible. The ministry has identified two officers as focal points for persons with disabilities.”

The officers work closely with special needs organizations such as the St. Kitts and Nevis Association of Persons with Disabilities (SKNAPD), Ade’s Place, the Cotton-Thomas Comprehensive School, and others.

Other initiatives include regular informational sessions where critical interaction and exchanges take place between policy-makers and differently-abled persons; providing additional space for the SKNAPD to conduct training and wheelchair repair activities; and improving housing solutions.

“Our Team Unity Government has … in the Human Settlement Ministry, taken strides to ensure that householders, persons with disabilities have access to houses in our community with appropriate ramps,” Minister Hamilton told the local and regional delegates.“As we speak, there is a house being constructed right now near Hermitage Estate … for someone with a disability [with] a ramp from the road to his house, right to his door.”

The minister added that his ministry operates on the principle that instead of giving handouts, people must be empowered, and added that government, regional and international organizations must assist in the struggle for the rights of the differently-abled.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Development, Janelle Lewis-Tafari, sdaid that a follow-up workshop will be held in scheduled for mid-September with stakeholders to fine-tune some of the recommendations in the draft Special Needs Policy and develop specific action plans before they are submitted to Cabinet.

 

SKNIS Photo:   Minister of Social Development, the Honourable Eugene Hamilton