ONE of the hardest hit communities during the pandemic is that of the disabled, including those living with Down Syndrome. The local Down Syndrome Family Network (DSFN) and its members have voiced concerns over support for its vulnerable community.
While the government and some financial institutions have put forth multiple efforts to help combat the social and economic impact of covid19, the impact on this particular community still remains a question mark, said a media release from the network.
The DSFN said: "Down Syndrome International, a global organisation committed to improving the lives of those with Down Syndrome, state that its global community is constantly at a higher risk of being impacted by situations like covid19 and are less likely to be included in response plans when humanitarian emergencies arise. The DSFN, its members, and those not part of its current network may also be in a similar position locally.
"The DSFN is currently looking at ways to help support its members and other households of those living with Down syndrome through this difficult time."
The network said one major setback it has identified is specific gaps in current policy and legislation, which have been exposed by covid19, and which need addressing if there is to be any change, support for equal opportunity and rights for those in Down syndrome community.
"Many adults with Down syndrome are often capable of maintaining employment and living independently. Yet, in circumstances where individuals are able to work and live alone, those adults still require additional financial assistance as salaries, stipends and work mentorship programmes vary greatly. Many people with disabilities are paid below the minimum wage and fear that their grants would be terminated if they accept jobs at present or in future.
"Provisions for insurance coverage for people with disabilities is not offered in TT and thus presents another growing problem for the community at present," it said.
Citing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the United States that provides for people within the US with disabilities to also have the option to open Able accounts which are designed to help adults with developmental disabilities maintain qualification for benefit programmes, provide tax relief on investments in the account and provide direct access to funds for them once they qualify, the DFSN hopes TT will move in a similar direction.
"The DSFN notes that the revised TT National Policy on Persons with Disabilities can lead to future review and enactment of legislative measures to ensure equal opportunity for promotion and pay in the workplace and the labour market. The enactment of legislation will also put into effect the International Labour Organization Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) Convention (No. 159). While the DSFN is hopeful that this legislation will be enacted in the near future, it also realise the importance of dealing with today’s problem," the network said.
For those who may be suffering from retrenchment, termination or reduced income at this time, it suggests during this time they understand how they spend money, what they spend money on and become aware of how they are cutting back on expenses.
"Categorise where spending goes and the necessary expenses per day, week and per month.
"Start creating a simple budget to track your long-term liabilities and short-term needs."
The DSFN said creating a budget that reflects this period will be helpful for the rest of 2020, and can put those affected and their family in a better situation come 2021.
The network is also advising members to research accessible options for funding and support which the government has put in place such as the salary relief grant, food card grant and rental assistance grant which are accessible to all citizens who meet requirements, regardless of their capabilities.
For those who have been retrenched, terminated and lost income between March 1-June 30, it suggests a visit to the Ministry of Finance's website for more information on how to access grants as well as the websites of those financial institutions offering grants and stimulus packages.
The DSFN also advises its members to read the fine print and understand what the terms, requirements and considerations are for each transaction to avoid make unnecessary sacrifices now in exchange for more difficult times in the future.
"These payments, while accessible to all, are income and dependency relevant. You must be able to prove that you are in need to gain funding. Adults receiving grants already worry about losing those benefits either from earning too much or saving too much as it depends on the income of the entire household," it said.
To those who need help finding out how to access funding opportunities or want help managing finances at this time, visit the Down Syndrome Family Network at www.dsfamilynetwork.org, Facebook or e-mail at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org