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They leave PWDs over 21 at their mercy – European state without… centers

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Αφorνουν τουσ Α ;μεΑ Ανω των 21 ετоν στο ελεος τους-Ε&upsilon

With the question “what will happen to children with disabilities when they turn 21?”, the joint session of the Labor and Education Committee began on Tuesday in Parliament. He closed with the same question, since despite the fact that what the state offers to these children and their families was heard, an answer to this specific question has not been given.

And that's not the most worrying thing. The worrying thing is that this question has been said many times and has echoed as many times in the halls of the Parliament, since it is not the first time that this specific issue has been raised in the Labor Committee. The answers given, although they could be described as satisfactory, were not what was required for the specific question.

Once again, the deputies listened to the positions of the officials of each service and got up from the chairs of the Plenary Hall, where the session took place and they did not receive an answer to their question, as a result of which they set a new session, on the same subject, after the Presidential Elections, specifically in March. In fact, the two presidents of the Committees, Andreas Kavkalias and Pavlos Mylonas, announced that after the Presidential elections and when a new Government is elected, all the chapters with targeted proposals will be put on the table.

The reason for registering the issue in the two committees was the recent visit of the Education Committee to various schools in Cyprus. Among them is the special school of Apostolos Varnavas in Liopetri, where the deputies listened to the parents and their pleas for the need for structures for their children to go to when they reach the age of 21, as according to the legislation, special schools they can accept students up to the age of 20.

The chairman of the Education Committee and MP of DIKO, Pavlos Mylonas, opened the dance of the placements, stating that the problems they have identified in the schools take time, while in the school of Apostolos Varnavas they faced the important problem, which has to do with the children and the their course, when they reach the age of 21. Mr. Mylonas indicated that special schools have many other problems that they must consider, such as the fact that special units are in meltdowns, however, as he explained, the burning issue is what will become of these children, when they reach the age to graduate from special schools. “The question of what will become of our children when we die”, a question that he pointed out is constantly heard by parents, is critical and does not honor anyone, because it is a shame for the state not to provide support for these people.< /p>

For his part, the Chairman of the Labor Committee and Member of Parliament of AKEL, Andreas Kavkalias, noted that they are not satisfied with the decisions and measures that have been taken, given that the specific issue had been discussed again in the Committee he chairs. What they wanted to hear, as he explained, was the picture that the competent Ministries have recorded, of the situation that prevails to date, for people with disabilities over 21 years of age.

The positioning of the of Social Welfare Services

At the session, the Director of Social Welfare Services, Maria Kyratzi, was also present, who referred to the programs provided by the Services she directs, for people with disabilities. As he indicated, with the establishment of the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare, all the services that deal with the issues related to the needs of these individuals have now come under the same roof, whether it is twenty-four-hour structures or their inclusion in the labor market . He also noted that there are various works in progress, with regard to this particular age group, while he emphasized that from the point of view of HKE, whatever cases end up in them, there is an individualized approach, whether it concerns the need to study in a protection center, or any other need , so that the help that will be given is targeted.

He recognized that this position does not negate the fact that there are problems and that they are not solved in a specific way, however he emphasized that an attempt is made to give individualized help in each case. Ms. Kyratzis noted that the same practice is applied to the twenty-four-hour care structures for these children, which are approximately 20 throughout Cyprus and are subsidized by the state. He noted, in conclusion, that the goal is to strengthen the programs, where the possibility exists.

At this point, the chairman of the Education Committee intervened, stressing that, from their tour of schools in Cyprus, it was established that the problem with this particular age group is general and must be addressed by the State. As he noted, excellent work is being done at the Apostle Barnabas Special School in Liopetri, but there are children from infancy to 20 years old, which the Directorate itself considers to be a problem. “We need more money. The distribution of the funds given by the Ministries is a serious issue, which concerns everyone”, noted Mr. Mylonas.

The answers from the Department of Social Integration

Taking the floor, the Director of the Department of Social Integration, Christina Florentzou, wanted to start her introduction by mentioning that until today they remain as a Department, under the leadership of the Ministry of Labor and in the new year they will move to the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare.

He emphasized that the Ministry of Labor is already implementing programs regarding the integration of people with disabilities, who have reached the age of 21, into the labor market, as soon as they graduate from special schools. He explained that there is collaboration with the Ministry of Education, to inform children and their families about the jobs that are available and after learning their preferences, guidance is provided and then the process of joining them in the labor market begins. Ms. Florentzou indicated that there are a total of 24 integration programs for these people and indicated that in 2022 a session was held between the two Ministries (including Labor and Social Welfare), in which it was decided to carry out an information campaign for children and their families , for the specific programs. Answering a question, he noted that at the moment there are 380 people with intellectual and mental disabilities who are included in the labor market.

The placement of Ms. Florentzou, about the programs that exist regarding the inclusion of people with disabilities in the labor market, provoked the reaction of Pavlos Mylonas, who informed her that the programs in question are aimed at a specific group of people, and not at all people with disabilities , over 21 years old, as there are also those people who cannot join the labor market, with Ms. Florentzou replied that just as their right to live independently after 21 is a problem, so is the issue of the labor market, with the deputy replying that the issue of the particular session was something else. However, Ms. Florentzou indicated that he intended to talk about the exploitation of social enterprises, however, he could have skipped it if Mr. Mylonas did not consider it important, with the chairman of the Education Committee choosing not to continue and indicating that he should continue its placement.

Continuing, the Director of the Department of Social Integration noted that recognizing that the key to the inclusion of people with disabilities at work is the creation of new positions, efforts have been launched to make use of the law passed in 2020 by the Plenary of the Parliament, for the establishment of social enterprises, a law that provides for the inclusion of people with disabilities in said businesses.

Then she also referred to the people who finish special schools and do not have the skills to join the labor market, noting that she cannot refer to the day centers where they go, as they are not within the competence of her Department. As she noted, her own Department is responsible for creating new 24-hour residential homes for people with intellectual disabilities or autism, and in the last two years, nine homes and three service programs have been created, supporting 48 people with autism or intellectual disabilities.&nbsp ;

“We left over 70 children without summer school”

The magnitude of the problem that exists in special schools, but also with policies for people with disabilities, who belong to this age group or are expected to join it, was demonstrated by the testimonies of the Associations of Parents of children with disabilities. Through the placements, it was established that, based on existing legislation, discrimination is also made between people with disabilities.

The representative of POSYGOPEA and president of the Association of Parents of Evangelismos Special School, Marinos Nikolaou, took the floor first, who wanted to address an important issue, which is the timeless, as he characterized it, refusal of the Ministry of Education to take over the summer schools, for special schools. Because of this refusal, as he mentioned, after 20 years, they did not have a summer school in Evangelismos, as a result of which they left more than seventy children at home for three months.

For this issue, as Mr. Stavrou mentioned, as an Association, he has made many representations to the Ministry of Education, however, they did not manage to undertake as parents to operate the summer school, nor to convince the Ministry. He added that since the burden falls on the parents, it is natural for there to be clashes between the parents. In fact, the issue is so serious that the outgoing president of the Association of Evangelical Parents suffered two consecutive heart attacks, due to clashes with other parents.

“It is a burning issue and we cannot exclude our children from general education. In other schools, summer schools are under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, in special schools they are suddenly not under the Ministry of Education,” he concluded.

Afterwards, Stavros Stavrou, founder of the “Right to Hope” Day Center in Larnaca, took the floor. A father who experienced first-hand the problems that children and their parents face when they reach the age of 21 and decided to create his own Day Center to empower children who have nowhere to go when they turn 21, to have a place where they can continue to develop their potential.

As Mr. Stavrou mentioned, the Day Center has been operating for a year now, purely from sponsors, who pay the expenses and the staff working at the Day Center, while he noted that things are not easy when there is no proper support. He noted that the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare is with them, as well as the YKE.

Through his experiences, since the Day Center was created when his son was 24 years old, he realized that it is an important issue what happens when children with disabilities reach the age of 21 and graduate from special schools, as he mentioned, continuing its placement, all these years, children develop skills, which if they do not continue to work, they will forget.

“If we don't run certain people, privately, in collaboration with the Deputy Minister of Welfare, our babies don't come to the day centers to take care of them. Children come to day centers to continue what they did in special schools. We cannot stop this effort. There are many things we can work on so that children do not lose the abilities they have. I cannot listen to the need to create new centers, but not to support the existing ones”, he concluded.

For his part, the president of the Pancypriot Association for Down Syndrome, Stelios Theodorou, emphasized that since 2021 they had written memoranda to all the Ministries, and the memorandum they sent to the Ministry of Labor, on the issue of residence, is relevant. As he pointed out, in addition to cottages in the community, people with Down's syndrome could live in private homes, but people with intellectual disabilities lack this. He noted, at the same time, that as the legislation is today, people with mental disabilities cannot acquire property. “How could they have their own home, to have carers to look after them? On the issue of employment. Blind people are entitled to free transport, why are people with mental disabilities not entitled to it?”

Stavros Vrontis, the president of the Association for Autism “Mazi”, also spoke about the different treatment of people with mental disabilities, in relation to people with physical disabilities, such as the blind. As he mentioned in his post, there is discrimination in the services that people with different disabilities have, indicating that people with autism cannot drive and have to be transported by others, however, they do not have the right to free transportation, like the blind.

With reference to the problem of not having the right to property, for people with mental disabilities, Mr. Vrontis indicated that it is an anachronistic issue that exists in the legislation and this imposes unacceptable practices on the families of these children. Mr. Vrontis noted that the state itself imposes these practices, because it does not allow parents to transfer deposits and properties to their children. With regard to the HSE, he raised the question of how they can offer what they report, when they are understaffed and lack specialized staff, to understand the needs.

Continuing, he indicated that the procedures for various services and programs , offered by the state, that parents of children with disabilities must follow are labyrinthine, resulting in many of them giving up. This also explains the fact that few cases are monitored.

In his own position, Ilias Dimitriou, president of the All-Cyprus Council of Volunteer Corps, noted that this specific issue, for people over 21, is quite important as it also concerns the volunteers, since it is up to them whether they will build structures, to be employed those people. And for his part, he recognized that there is a strange distribution of resources, in terms of the structures that operate at a private level, while he added that Cyprus is at the last steps, at international levels, in terms of benefits and provisions for the specific individuals. He emphasized that a lot must be done by the state for these people, because it is a shame that they end up in orphanages or nursing homes when their parents die. /p>

Taking the floor, the president of KYSOA, Christakis Nikolaidis, indicated that although a great effort is being made, the conditions do not exist for people with disabilities. Referring to the special schools, Mr. Nikolaidis characterized them as segregation structures, where the basics are not provided and parents are looking for institutions to take their children. He added that more policies should be developed so that more children go to General School and this is the reason why thousands of children with disabilities do not have a high school diploma, since they either went to special units or did not finish school.

The reports of Mr. Nikolaidis on the special schools caused the strong annoyance of the chairman of the Education Committee, who pointed out that the special schools are doing an excellent job and the work being done is quite good. Nicolaidis replied that it is a violation of children's rights to uniform education. Without missing the opportunity, Mr. Mylonas replied that it is time to put the slogans aside and that there are parents who told the deputies that a way should be found to keep their children longer in the special schools, which shows the good work which is happening.

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  • Patience has run out, parents of children with disabilities are taking to the streets
  • Reply to KYSOA for special education, Prodromou referring to the conference
  • Six-year-old child without an escort, the family is in despair – “I don't want him to be a burden”
  • Wags the finger at MFA Lottidi for escorts-“A service plan is necessary”

Source: www.reporter.com.cy

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