LNFOD ‘disturbed by social exclusion’

Calls on govt to consider them as partners not charity cases

MATHATISI SEBUSI

MASERU – The Lesotho National Federation of Organisations of the Disabled (LNFOD) is disturbed by what it calls the government’s exclusion of persons with disabilities in matters that concern them. LNFOD accuses the government of failing to consider people with disabilities as partners who should be engaged in matters of development, and not simply view them as charity cases.

The director at the federation, Nkhasi Sefuthi, speaking to Public Eye this week, noted that this discrimination and isolation hinders persons with disabilities from being active members of society. He said lack of inclusion and access to services has also seen persons with disabilities continue to experience difficulties in terms of access to education, employment, health and other social and economic sectors.

Speaking on inclusion, Nkhasi appreciated the steps taken by social the development ministry to allocate a budget for the implementation of the disability grant as envisaged in the Persons with Disability Equity Act of 2021. He said the provision of the grant has great potential of improving the social and economic status of persons with disabilities if implemented in the human rights-based approach.

He, however, said their concern is the manner in which the ministry intends to implement the grant. Sefuthi claimed participation of persons with disabilities in the design of the disability grant was denied. “The Ministry of Social Development did not involve organisations of persons with disabilities in the design and formulation of the disability grant resulting in exclusion of the voices of persons with disabilities in matters affecting them directly.

“Such organisations were only told of the formulation of the disability grant by the ministry on the July 15 when the disability grant presentation was made and inputs solicited,” he said. He noted that the exclusion of persons with disabilities in the formulation of the disability grant is in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Article 4.3 which obligates state parties, including Lesotho, to involve persons with disabilities in all matters directly affecting their lives.

Among the issues stipulated by the Persons with Disability Equity Act that the LNFOD is dissatisfied about is the ministry’s determination of the severity of disabilities on the supposed beneficiaries of the grant. Sefuthi said the Act states that the grant is for persons with severe disabilities which are defined as those with physical and mental impairments which are limiting their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

He said contrary to the definition of the Act, the ministry seeks to determine the severity of disability by looking at the impairment or body condition of a person with a disability instead of following the law by looking at the social and economic situation of the applicant with a disability. “It is important to note at this juncture that in the human rights context, severity of a disability is not necessarily caused by the seriousness of his or her impairment alone.

“As a result, the test used by the ministry to determine severity of disability perpetuates discrimination and medical and charity model which is contradicting with the same Persons with Disability Equity Act they are trying to implement with provision of disability grant,” he noted. He emphasised that persons with disabilities are hindered by social and environmental barriers they face in life to participate and not so much by their impairments.

As a result, he said, LNFOD believes that the ministry should use a social test to determine severity of disability. Such a test will consider social and economic barriers faced by applicants whilst medical experts should only be involved to declare the impairment of the applicants with disability assessment. LNFOD’s other worry is that ministry of social development will be will organise medical experts who will determine the severity of a disability and what an applicant with disability can do.

Sefuthi said this is not in line with human rights standards set out by the CRPD since the procedure undermines the humanity of persons with severe disabilities on the basis of their disability and does not consider them to be people who can control their lives.

He further noted that it is only people with severe disabilities who can determine what they can do in life, not anyone else, including medical experts. He said LNFOD is concerned that if the ministry of social development continues with the provision of the grant as it is, it will not reach a significant number of the beneficiaries who deserve it. Sefuthi pointed out that other areas of concern touched on the decision by ministry to use the existing test to determine the state of poverty of the applicant with a disability.

“Though the ministry has decided to use existing social tools to determine the state of poverty of the applicant with a disability, this will not do justice to an applicant with a disability because the existing tool do not consider socio-economic barriers faced by persons with disabilities.

“Since persons with disabilities incur disability specific costs which other people do not incur, it is crucial to measure the disability specific costs and include them in the assessment. “LNFOD therefore appeals to the ministry to reconsider using existing social tools to determine the situation of an applicant with disability and adopt a new tool which considers the socio-economic barriers,” he noted.

 

 

Side-bar

….demands increase in social grants from M400

 

MASERU – The Lesotho National Federation of Organisations of the Disabled (LFOD) has urged the government, through the social development ministry, to increase grants for persons with disabilities from M400 to at least M800.

In addition, the organisation also wants to see the M150 meant for the guardian or parent increased to M500.

As enclosed in the Persons with Disability Equity Act of 2021, people with severe disabilities will receive M400 per month while their parents or guardians will receive M150 per month.

But LNFOD director, Nkhasi Sefuthi, says the amounts do not promote the independence of persons with disabilities as the objective of the grants is to improve economic empowerment of persons with disability.

 

He said the M150 that will be given to a parent or guardian does not motivate the guardian or parent to support a person with severe disability.

As an organisation for persons with disabilities, he said, they have observed that the population of people with severe disabilities can be estimated at less than 5 percent of the total population of persons with disabilities.

He said considering that the grant is not given to every person with a disability, the government has an opportunity of raising the amount to at least M800 for persons with disability and M500 for carer.

To ensure that the disability grant benefits its supposed beneficiaries, Sefuthi said LNFOD encourages the ministry of social development to implement the disability grant in accordance with Persons with Disability Equity Act of 2021 which adopts a social model of disability by setting up a test for determining disability.

Sefuthi said the LNFOD further urges the government through ministry of social development to request support from development partners to contribute towards the provision of the disability grant that is in line with the current standards of living in Lesotho.

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