By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The annual allowances proposed by the Government for disabled people may be able to lure those who used to hide at home to come out and restore a normal relationship with the outside world, but a local social service organisation is worried that there will be no sufficient resources to provide rehabilitation services for these “new comers”.
With the Government planning to introduce a series of welfare for the disabled including the already announced disability classification system, president of the Parents’ Association of People with Intellectual Disability, Rose Lau, said it is set to expose a lot of “hidden cases” where parents have kept their disabled children at home for years and did not let them receive rehabilitation services or try to live a normal life on their own.
“There was no Government welfare for the disabled before and of course they wouldn’t want to come out and tell the others that they are disabled,” she told the MDTimes by phone yesterday.
Secretary-General of Caritas Macau, Paul Pun Chi Meng, believed that it is a “good thing” to see the “hidden cases” be made known to the public, but he is concerned about whether the already very tight rehabilitation resources in the city will be able to cope with this sudden increase in demand.
“Macau seriously lacks human power in this sector, and tailor-made rehab equipment can only be ordered from Hong Kong, the process is very difficult for the disabled,” Pun told the MDTimes.
“It’s good that we can identify these people but after that we don’t have the resources to provide them with therapies,” he added.
Meanwhile, president of the Macau Deaf Association, Clarissa U Ka Weng, said that since these disabled people are not aware of the social services available, it is hoped that the Government can follow-up their situations after they have received the disability assessment and arrange for them to receive the right treatment in order to improve their quality of life.
Lau said the MOP 6,000 and MOP 12,000 allowance for people with a mild or moderate degree of disability and severe or profound degree of disability is “not a great help” given the soaring inflation nowadays.
Pun also deemed the amounts to be not enough if they are seen as a “living allowance”. Yet he said the money should be treated as a demonstration of “care from society” and a way to encourage and support the disabled to live a normal life.
U also said the amounts are “acceptable” at present, but she hoped that the Government will review the measure from time to time so that it can keep pace with changes in society.
Prefer to be named ‘severe’
Since the allowances will be divided into two categories and given according to the person’s degree of disability, concerns have been aroused recently regarding the accuracy or professional level of the disability assessment system.
“When personal interests are involved, I can’t rule out the possibility that some parents would like to see their children be categorised as on the severe or profound degree of disability even though in fact they are not,” Lau said.
Caritas’ head in the meantime said the Government should narrow down the difference in the allowance amounts and each degree of disability should offer different amounts of allowances.
“The allowances now are either MOP 6,000 or MOP 12,000, some people may prefer to be named as having severe degree of disability,” Pun said.
While the three associations all support the Government’s proposal to provide free health care services to the disabled, U said she hoped that aid products to support their daily living will be covered by the initiative as well.
In addition, the Deaf Association hopes the Government can establish an integrated aid product centre to assist or even sponsor the disabled to purchase the right equipment.
The Social Welfare Bureau (IAS) has announced that the disabled can file an appeal if they don’t agree with the results of the disability assessment.
U said her association has confidence in the assessment but stressed that the appeal mechanism must be properly executed in the future.
The IAS will start accepting applications from March 11 for disability assessment registration cards, which are necessary in order to benefit from any of the welfare allowances.
Pun said the application procedures should be simplified and priority should be given to those with a severe or profound degree of disability.
U also said the cards will bring the disabled convenience in their daily lives, adding that it is necessary for the Government to promote the cards to the general public.
Yet, Lau said the use of the registration cards should be expanded to other outlets such as public transport, shops or ferry ticketing offices where the disabled can enjoy discounts or certain privileges.
Director of the Special Olympics Macau, Hetzer Siu Yu Hong, said he hoped the welfare allowances can be passed at the legislature and implemented as soon as possible, and during which, the public can be stimulated to pay further attention to the rights and interests and the difficulties of the disabled.