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Ministry to draft 10-year plan to improve lives of people with disabilities

By Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto - May 24,2018 - Last updated at May 24,2018

AMMAN — The Ministry of Social Development has formed a national team to develop a 10-year plan aimed at moving from an institution-based system for persons with disabilities to a family and community based support service, ministry spokesperson Fawaz Ratrout told The Jordan Times, noting that “since the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities came into force in 2017, the ministry has initiated the necessary steps for the social integration of persons with disabilities in line with Article 27 of the law”.

According to Article 27, the shelter system for persons with disabilities must be replaced with a supportive system of integration services aimed at achieving the highest standards of self-reliance for individuals with disabilities, proposing progressive and temporary solutions and alternatives to be gradually implemented over 10 years.

“The Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (HCD) has been working hand in hand with the Social Development Ministry to develop the ten-year plan over the past 10 months, in cooperation with the UK-based organisation Lumos,” HCD’s Secretary General Muhannad Azzeh told The Jordan Times, explaining that the plan shall include outreach services, awareness raising programmes for the local communities, and training and capacity development initiatives for families.

“It is the right of persons with disabilities to live independently and it is our duty to provide them with the necessary facilities,” Ratrout said, explaining that the ministry has developed “a gradual plan containing practical items in order to move from a shelter system to an integration system, and our staff has undergone training programmes in the best practices towards integration”.

“The ministry provides services to 12,000 individuals with disabilities through day care centres, rehabilitation services, customs exemptions, domestic workers and others, while 15,000 persons with disabilities benefit from national aid,” the official highlighted, noting that the ministry is planning to expand its support services in the coming period, in accordance with the recently adopted law.

“But talking about alternatives does not only mean moving forward from day care centres, but also to include a set of measures and services that promote independent living and community integration,” Azzeh stressed, underlining the need for “social arrangements for small group homes where individuals with disabilities without a family could live, while being integrated within the neighbourhood and the community”.

Speaking in Amman last month at a lecture organised by the HCD, Lumos’ Chief Executive Officer Georgette Mulheir warned: “There are 80 years of scientific evidence proving that children are seriously harmed by being raised in orphanages and institutions which are, in fact, harming their health and development,” noting that children with disabilities living in institutions are often undernourished either due to shortages of staff or because some employees prefer these children not to put on weight.

 “As part of my work in low, middle and high income countries, I have found that you can provide family-based support services for 10 times more children with the same amount of money spent on one child in an orphanage,” she pointed out, citing the example of a baby living in an institution in Czech Republic who cost the same as 30 children living in families. 

Acknowledging that creating social change is “difficult” and that it might take up to 10 years to witness such evolution in Jordan, Mulheir said “it is possible”, voicing her hope to see Jordan lead the way in the Middle East in that regard.

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