The Malta Independent 15 May 2021, Saturday

From inclusive education to employment

Justyne Caruana Sunday, 17 May 2015, 14:00 Last update: about 7 years ago

Education and employment are two sectors that are closely related. An effective educational system is one whereby students develop their skills so that they can be effective participants in the employment market.

As Parliamentary Secretary of the department responsible for people with disability, this week I represented the Maltese government at a high level EU ministerial meeting that focused on disability, entitled From inclusive education to inclusive employment for people with disability. It was held in Riga, hosted by the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The concept of inclusive communities has featured prominently in recent years in various fora, including the EU. Both education and employment are key pillars in the government's policy on the rights of people with disability, which embodies the values and principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD) and the European Disability Strategy. In fact, the Parliamentary Secretariat for the Rights of People with Disability and Active Ageing is currently in talks with several government ministries over the National Disability Strategy regarding the implementation of the said policy.

We are also carrying out a major review of our Equal Opportunities Legislation for the first time in 15 years, revamping it to give a more focused regulatory role to the National Commision for People with Disability which is the main body that safeguards the rights and interests of people with disabilities and their families.

In my contribution during the high level meeting, I highlighted the achievements made by our government in the disability sector, namely the establishment of a national focal point for the implementation of the UNCRPD, the enactment of the Sign Language Act, the legal representation of people with disability within government entities, the Guardianship Act and a number of other legistlative frameworks. We also strengthened the Trusts and Foundations Act together with an attractive fiscal package, including several tax exemptions.

In Malta we have also engaged incessantly with the subject of inclusion at all levels, especially with regard to the implementation dimension, whereby the government has invested a great deal of resources in the sector. All students with a disability who receive their education in mainstream settings are provided with all the necessary support to make their school placement a success.

During informal and bilateral debates and workshops, I also spoke about the work being done in order to strengthen the influence of the UNCRPD on our social fabric, the setting up of the Focal Point Office and the implementation of the National Policy and Strategy on the Rights of People with Disability.

I also had the opportunity to explain the successful models that are being applied locally in the inclusive education and employment sector. Lately, the employment sector is seeing encouraging results, with some 20 per cent of people with disability who had registered for work have now found employment.

There was also a chance to hold a very fruitful meeting with the Latvian Minister for Welfare, Uldis Augulius. During this meeting we had the opportunity to discuss a number of initiatives in view of possible future collaboration between Latvia and Malta with the objective of encouraging and ensuring social inclusion.

We need to keep working hard in this sector and the government recognises that simply being committed to the cause is not good enough. Ensuring that people with disability are engaged in the employment sector entails the need to promote vocational education, improve our public transportation, keep providing support to employers, protect those with disability through legislative safeguards, strengthen social enterprise and cooperatives and encourage entrepreneurship, strengthen supported and sheltered employment, involve civil society and unions in this challenge, employ more people in the public sector, promote schemes that will help to encourage physical access - a challenging task indeed. With the right support, we are confident that we will succeed.

 


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