Sat, Oct 03, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Better disability subsidies urged

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Poorly designed subsidies discourage disabled people from living independently, violating international law, members of the Taiwan Community Living Consortium said yesterday.

They made their remarks during a hearing at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei organized by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Chieh-ju (陳節如).

“There are very few community living programs, because funding is extremely inadequate and there currently is no policy supporting their continuous operation,” Taiwan Community Living Consortium president Chen Mei-ling (陳美鈴) said. “At a time when the government cannot make a firm policy promise, nonprofits are afraid to operate the programs and parents are afraid to entrust their children to us.”

She said that the programs allow disabled individuals to lead richer and more normal lives compared with institutional care by allowing them greater freedom, adding that the programs also cost less, because they do not require permanent facilities to be purchased and maintained.

The consortium’s members condemned the current subsidy scheme for mainly funding institutional living.

“Currently, no institution will turn [a disabled person] away — everyone is accepted, because there are subsidies — but that money is not available to those who want to live in a community living program,” National Yang-Ming University professor of health and welfare Chou Yueh-ching (周月清) said.

She said that only 0.03 percent of disabled people in the nation live in community living programs, compared with 6.8 percent who live in institutions, adding that the remainder live independently or with their family.

The advocates emphasized that choosing where and how one lives is a right for the disabled under the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Taiwan has ratified.

“Community inclusion is a human right and institutional living must stop,” Harvard Law School Project on Disability senior researcher Janet Lord said.

“There is a very clear evidence base that institutions are diminishing of human rights, that they create cycles of dependence; they are isolating, oppressive and they create conditions in which human rights violations flourish,” Lord said, adding that the institutions increase the likelihood of violence, sexual abuse and exploitation, while reducing the opportunity for a quality education and meaningful activities.

Chiang Hsiu-chu (蔣秀珠), a resident of a community living program in Taichung administrated by the Maria Social Welfare Foundation, said she liked the arrangement better than institutional living, because she can decide when to sleep, can go to work by herself and is also able to go to a nearby park to exercise.

Social and Family Affairs Administration Deputy Director-General Chu Chien-fang (祝建芳) said that the government supports making it easier for disabled people to choose community living because of the increase in the quality of life allowed.

While in the past subsidies were capped because there were only trial programs, there is now a legal foundation to allow for caps to be lifted and subsidies distributed in the same manner as assisted-living institutions, Chu said.

She added that the main roadblock to expansion has been the failure by local governments to draft relevant fee schedules, preventing subsidies from automatically being distributed to community living programs.

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