Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo

The time has come for the various government ministries which impact the lives of the disabled community to engage at a policy level.

This is the view of Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, who said officials in the Ministries of Health, Education, Social Care and her Ministry should come together now to make sure those persons with disabilities could participate fully in society and achieve their potential.

Dr. Byer Suckoo made the comments today, while delivering the feature address at the Children’s Development Centre’s Graduation, under the theme: "Guidance is all they need".

Admitting that tremendous gain had been made in Barbados over the years for persons with disabilities, she pointed out that more still needed to be done.

"My concern is also for those persons in communities who have passed the age for the Children’s Development Centre …, many of whom are tucked away in their homes. Tucked away in a corner, not seeing the light of day, not exposed to any opportunities; of course too old to be exposed to the programmes of the Children’s Development Centre," she lamented.

"I do not believe such a child is achieving his or her God-given potential. Such a young person is not finding and achieving his or her purpose in life," the Minister suggested.

She said more support should be put in place for parents of children with disabilities, especially since many of them did not receive assistance from their extended families and community. According to her, these parents sometimes found it challenging to meet the needs of their children, as well as complete their other daily tasks, including working and paying bills. She added that some of their neighbours were usually overwhelmed by the prospect of looking after such children.

Minister Byer Suckoo added that there was "an overwhelming demand" for agencies such as the Children’s Development Centre, which provided outlets for the continuous quality of life and allowed persons with special needs the opportunity to generate income using the skills and knowledge they had acquired.

She noted that Government had to lead the way in employing persons with disabilities and to make sure systems were in place for them to achieve their potential. But, she called on Corporate Barbados to design strategies which would facilitate the employment of persons with disabilities.

"It is only when real efforts are made and sustained to incorporate persons who may be perceived as being different in our long-term development goal [that], we can say as a nation we have achieved any development," she argued.

The top students at today’s graduation was Keisha Providence.

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