Special Needs Policy to improve the lives of persons living with disabilities in St. Kitts-Nevis

(SKNIS): A workshop held today (December 01) to review the Special Needs Policy marks a significant step for the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis as it strives to deliver on its promise to improve the lives of persons living with disabilities.

Janelle Lewis, Permanent Secretary (Ag.) in the Ministry of Community Development, Gender Affairs and Social Services, said that the policy is a road map that will follow the signing and ratifying of the UN Convention.

Mrs. Lewis explained that Cabinet has an interest in signing and ratifying the Convention, which deals with the rise of persons with disabilities. She said that Cabinet, persons that work alongside the differently abled and the differently abled themselves realize that there is a lot of work to be done in successfully improving the lives of persons with disabilities. She added that there is also work to be done to establish an inclusive society where the differently abled can participate in every aspect of society, be it economic, social or cultural.

“These are people’s basic human rights. They are entitled to them and we have a responsibility of ensuring that they can enjoy these human rights. So signing and ratifying the convention is the first step. Once we sign we become obligated to ensure that the articles in the Convention are evident in our local legislation, our policies, our practices, that we have resources allocated towards achieving these articles,” said the permanent secretary.

The Special Needs Policy would pave the way forward to improve the quality of life of persons living with disabilities, said Mrs. Lewis.

“Signing is just ink on a piece of paper; actions must follow if we are really serious,” she said. “Once we sign and ratify the convention, there has to be some kind of roadmap, some kind of plan so that we can move forward. We can no longer do things in a reactive way, in a haphazard sort of way. We have to plan to make sure that our limited resources, whether it is financial or human, are put to the most effective use. We have to make sure that there are better coordinated efforts,” Mrs. Lewis said.

In order to prepare the ratification, from August 2017 a Social Protection and Disability Specialist working for the European Union worked on a short term assignment in St. Kitts and Nevis in helping to provide the necessary policy framework to facilitate the improvement of the overall quality of life of persons living with disabilities and to formulate a Special Needs Policy.

The workshop, which was held at the McKnight Community Centre, discussed recommendations from Disability Consultant for the European Union, Hans A.H. Wolf. Short presentations were made from representatives from various ministries including the Ministry of Community Development, Gender Affairs and Social Services, the Ministry of Health, Education, and the President of the St. Kitts Nevis Association of People with Disabilities.

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