Message for the Month of the Disabled, delivered by the Hon. Donville Inniss, Minister of Health, on Friday, March 13, 2009 at the Children’s Development Centre.

“Promoting Equality, Dignity and Participation”, the theme selected for the celebration of the Month of the Disabled, calls attention to the need to promote the human rights of persons with disabilities. It underscores our commitment to the provision of an equal opportunity for an optimum quality of life for all vulnerable persons in our society.  

The World Health Organization estimates that 10% of the world’s population, approximately 650 million persons, of which 200 million are children, experience some form of disability, meaning that they have special needs and may require assistance with daily activities. An estimated 80% of those with disabilities live in developing countries. 

The 2000 population census showed that there were 14,000 persons in Barbados living with a disability or major impairment. This represents 5% of our population.

The number of persons with disabilities is growing, worldwide. Better perinatal care, medical advances that prolong life and population growth are among the factors which may be contributing to this increase. This trend is creating a demand for health and rehabilitation services in both developed and developing countries.

Creating the conditions for optimum health and wellness of the population requires a diverse mix of services, collaboration among the public, private and non-governmental sectors, citizen participation and a sufficient number of well trained staff who are committed to fulfilling the vision of a healthy and productive Barbados.

It was no doubt the desire to have a society that is socially just, which led to the establishment of the Children’s Development Centre (CDC) in August 1981. Since that time, the Centre has provided assessment and evaluation services to many children and families. At the end of December 2008 a total of 3,299 children had been registered with the Centre. 

It is noteworthy that the CDC also provides services to children from the Eastern Caribbean and Guyana through a reciprocal agreement between the governments of those countries and Barbados. This agreement is coordinated through the Chief Medical Officers of the respective countries.

A wide range of services are offered at the CDC, including physiotherapy, medical, occupational therapy, psychology, neurology, orthopaedics, day-care, social work and counselling.  In addition, there is a medical service for persons 21 years and over, hippotherapy, hydrotherapy, early stimulation, multi-sensory stimulation, hearing aids and ear moulds. Workshop training prepares persons 16 years and over for the world of work.    

I am certain that in its near 28 years of existence the Children’s Development Centre has provided an invaluable service to children and their families, enriching their lives in a supportive environment.
In the coming Financial Year, the CDC will continue to provide necessary services to children including comprehensive assessments of their cognitive and general functioning and will provide the associated therapeutic services. On the administrative side, work to upgrade the data base of clients will continue. This will result in the availability of better information which will be used for the development of new policies or services. Approximately $1.9 million has been allocated in the Estimates for the new Financial Year, 2009/2010 for the provision of these services. 

The Ministry of Health will seek ways to strengthen community-based rehabilitation, early intervention and identification of disabilities especially in children in order to reduce impairment. In this regard, I am pleased to announce that the Ministry of Health is in the final stages of planning for the establishment of an agreement with the Barbados Council for the Disabled for the provision of therapeutic and support services to persons with disabilities.

Under this arrangement the Barbados Council for the Disabled will be responsible for the design, delivery and coordination of services such as physiotherapy, occupational, speech and other therapeutic services, as well as social work and counselling services. A sum of 1.2 million dollars, over a period of 3 years has been allocated for this programme.         

In closing, I want to take this opportunity to commend Mr. Goldwyn Edwards and the staff of the Children’s Development Centre for their tireless efforts on behalf of the children who are entrusted to their care. Thank you.    

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