The Malta Independent 25 October 2021, Monday

500 children with lifelong disability, guardians to benefit from simplified social benefits process

Janet Fenech Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 14:54 Last update: about 4 months ago

The lifelong disability of a child like Down syndrome no longer needs to be re-evaluated by a medical board at Agenzija Support when the child turns 16 in order to receive social security benefits, it was announced today.

Till now, the guardians of these children had to reapply for benefits and be interviewed again - along with the person with disability when they turned 16 - as they would no longer fall under the disability allowance for children.

Around 100 children and their guardians will benefit from this new process this year, Family Minister Michael Falzon said.

Benefits for unemployed guardians who are the fulltime carers of children with disability have also been introduced this year.  Around 400 people are currently benefitting from this scheme.

Notifications have already been sent to 60 guardians whose child with a disability will have turned 16 between the period of January and August 2021.

Forty more notifications will be sent to those families whose child will be turning 16 between September and December 2021.

As from 2020, eligible applicants will be notified further in advance to ensure that the benefits will be received as soon as the child turns 16.

Inclusion Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli said that last November, the ministry also gave the opportunity to all those NGOs in the disability sector to have their voices heard about any other changes they wish to see.

Agenzija Support offers disability services and strives to create initiatives and opportunities for inclusion of persons with disabilities in society.

It is now employing a new IT procedure to automatically select those who are eligible for social security benefits and notify them by post.

The president of the Down Syndrome Association Joanna Xerri, who is also a mother of a boy with Down syndrome, went through this interview process herself to re-evaluate her then 16 year old son’s lifelong disability in order to receive social security benefits.

She described the process as “unnecessarily painful as it highlights the fact that your child’s disability isn’t curable and thus has remained unchanged.”

She is pleased that around 90% of people with severe disability will no longer have to go through that process since their condition is deemed lifelong.

On his part, Minister Falzon said that this bureaucratic revision exhibits the government’s solidarity towards social justice that seeks to grant everyone the opportunity to reach their full potential and shows the strength of two ministries pulling a rope in the same direction. This synergy between the two ministries will now further enable the quality of life of those facing an even more challenging life than others, he said.

Last year, Malta had one of the biggest social security budgets ever given and Malta has the largest amount of employed people with a disability, Farrugia said.


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