Ministry of Social Development and Family Services advocates for persons with disabilities

“We have recognized that there is a greater need for an increase in sensitization and public awareness on disability in Trinidad and Tobago.  In this regard, the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services has, among its varied plans for fiscal 2018 the development of a National Registry on persons with Disabilities”.

These were some of the areas highlighted and articulated by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, Jacinta Bailey-Sobers, as she addressed the Down Syndrome Family Network’s, UN World Down Syndrome Day Conference, held on March 20, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency.

PS Sobers further stated that the Ministry is committed to engagement at all levels, from public officers and other individuals and groups; as well as policy makers at the various agencies members of the public, to inform and educate all about the issues affecting the lives of persons with disabilities.

The National Registry, according to the Permanent Secretary will serve to capture nationwide record of citizens with disabilities to ensure that socio-economic planning and programming for the national community of persons with disabilities is evidenced-based, which would enable greater precision in the protection and targeting of programmes, improved allocation of resources, and a better quality of life for citizens with disabilities.

She concluded by making a call for more partners, stakeholders and the business community to partner with the Ministry and organizations like the DSFN through holistic efforts, to address the existing barriers and challenges to work towards the implementation of affordable and innovative solutions for full participation and inclusion by persons with disabilities.

The event now in its 7th year, was themed What I bring to my community, what I bring to my workplace,’ was held in commemoration of World Down Syndrome Day 2018 and comprised of a number of speakers and workshops for persons with Down Syndrome. The keynote address was delivered by self-advocate David Egan a Public Policy Fellow, Community and Public Relations Specialist who stated that people with Down Syndrome do and can contribute to the community and workplace. Egan also added that persons with Down Syndrome can make a difference in all facets of society and human life.

Following the event, Permanent Secretary Jacinta Bailey-Sobers expressed that she was heartened by Mr Egan’s life story and that by his example persons with disabilities have a lot to bring to their community and workplace.

Delivering greetings on behalf of the United Nations’ Secretary General, Antonio Gutterres Richard Blewitt, United Nation’s Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, called for each person in Trinidad and Tobago to make a personal commitment “to break down social barriers for an inclusive society.”

Other speakers at the conference included Hanif Benjamin, Chairman of the Children’s Authority, who addressed trauma in correlation to disability, David Thomason, Vice-President Advancement, Special Olympics, Virginia, Penny Green, Director Down’s Heart Group, UK, Leesha M. Thrower, PhD. Professor Department of Communication – Cincinnati State Technical College among others.

The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, also hosted an information booth to highlight its grants, programmes and services which persons with disabilities may access.  Other booth holders included the Office of the Prime Minister, Gender and Child Development, Aeropost Limited, as well as other agencies and NGOs.

Some of the other initiatives which the Ministry would be undertaking towards the empowerment of the community of persons with disabilities in Trinidad and Tobago for fiscal 2018 include:

  • The completion of the approval of the National Policy of Persons with Disabilities, which would ensure the implementation of the measures to protect the rights of persons with disabilities; 
  • The exploration of the feasibility of an employment pilot project, in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Small and Micro-Enterprise Development, targeting persons with disabilities who possess the necessary skills set required for employment.

The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services is also looking forward to commemorating World Autism Awareness Day 2018 on April 2, with a number of planned activities to highlight and increase awareness for persons on the Autism Spectrum. 

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