KINGSTON — Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Andrew Gallimore, has welcomed a US$572,000 ($50 million) donation from the Japan Special Fund (JSF) to finance an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) technical cooperation project to improve the lives of disabled Jamaicans.
Mr. Gallimore said this is the largest sum of money that has ever been channeled into addressing the issues of persons with disabilities in Jamaica, and would assist the Government in developing policy and implementing programmes for their benefit.
He was addressing the launch of the IDB’s Technical Cooperation Project, aimed at providing “Support to Improve the Lives of Persons with Disabilities”, at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge, on the campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Monday (June 27). The theme of the launch was, ‘Embracing Abilities for an Inclusive Society’.
The funds were secured by the IDB from the Japan Special Fund. The project will assist the Ministry to improve the framework to advance social protection policies that will impact on the welfare of persons with disabilities. It will finance an islandwide registration of persons with disability, facilitate institutional development and help improve the Early Stimulation Programme for children with disabilities.
Mr. Gallimore said that the initiative was much more than a registration process, as it would improve the capability of the Government to identify the levels of assistance, if any, which have been given or are needed.
“This will ensure that persons get opportunities for education, early stimulation…and other forms of assistance, whether through the PATH programme or other agencies of Government,” he said.
He noted that unemployment was higher among the disabled, and that the database would allow government to better assess their situation and provide more assistance.
“This is going to allow the Council to provide meaningful policy directives…to help the Government identify new programmes that can be brought on stream to seek to mainstream persons with disabilities,” Mr. Gallimore said.
The registration process will be carried out over two years, and is in keeping with the country’s commitment to the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The State Minister said the Government would also use the funds to engage in a sustained and meaningful public education campaign.
“This is of great importance, because we need to change the paradigm of the Jamaican public in dealing with issues affecting persons with disabilities,” he stated.
Mr. Gallimore called on the private sector to employ more persons with disabilities, noting that the Government is still the most significant employer of such persons. He also noted that last year, the Government disbursed $12.8 million in grants to assist disabled persons to start their own businesses. This year another $15 million has been budgeted to this end.
IDB Representative in Jamaica, Ancile Brewster, said there are tremendous opportunities for persons with disabilities, through use of the latest technologies. He said that the technical cooperation project was another important step in Government support and Jamaica’s proud history in caring for its persons with disabilities.
Japan’s Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Hiroshi Yamaguchi, said his Government was committed to removing negative perception and attitude toward persons with disabilities.
“It is imperative to take care of a nation’s people, in order to protect its future development…the public also needs to be sensitized about the needs of the disabled…as well as to understand that the disabled can make a meaningful contribution to society,” he stated.
Mr. Yamaguchi also stated that the project was even more significant, after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March.
By ALPHEA SAUNDERS, JIS Reporter