A pilot project that offers two-hours-per-day support services to help people with disabilities lead independent lives is extremely unreasonable, the Independent Living Association Taipei said yesterday at a march demanding the attention of the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
The protest march, which was joined by dozens of groups advocating independent living for people with disabilities, ended at the ministry building and was followed by a sit-in on the premises.
Before embarking on the march, the groups enacted a sarcastic skit to show the absurdity of the government project which proclaims to help people with disabilities “obtain independence.”
In the skit, the “personal assistant,” who according to the project is to provide 60 hours of support services per month to persons with severe disabilities and 30 hours per month to those with moderate disabilities, rushed his services, with the narrator hurrying him along in order to “save national resources.”
The support service pilot project was initiated last year after the People with Disabilities Rights Protection Act (身心障礙者權益保障法), which had cleared the legislature in 2011, was amended to include support services for independent living as a type of home service, to be provided by the competent authority. The project has been providing a “personal assistant” service that aims to assist people with disabilities to achieve independent living and broaden their social participation in their communities.
“However, [the project] overlooks each disabled person’s individual needs and neglects the voice of users of the service, resulting in providing unrealistic services that fail to meet users’ needs and only serves the government’s control of resources,” the association said in a statement.
Independent Living Association Taipei secretary-general Lin Chun-chieh (林君潔) said the cap on the service hours “has resulted in local authorities’ reluctance to provide further assistance and services to people who need them.”
“The service should be provided according to each person’s needs,” she added.
The association also faulted the government for paying personal assistants — who perform heavy and exhausting work — an hourly wage of NT$120, “which is much lower than the NT$180 that in-home caregivers get and the NT$150 paid to temporary babysitters.”
Liu Che-chang (劉哲彰), a board member of the association, said that people with moderate or severe disabilities staying in institutions are “trapped,” sometimes force-fed and confined to their beds for long periods of time.
“Their lives can be likened to those of domestic animals,” Liu said.
Many of the institutionalized are hoping to leave the institutions and to be supported by independent living services, the association said, adding that the government should invite people with disabilities to help design the project in order to come up with a bottom-up, rather than the present top-down, approach to the development of tailor-made support services.