The board of the Montserrat Association for Persons with Disabilities said they will be stepping up the conversation and actions to shine light on the need for both the Government of Montserrat and the British Government to support more inclusive policies.
At the Annual General Meeting, held on Saturday, March 12, 2022 at the Montserrat National Trust, Parliamentary Secretary Veronica Dorsette-Hector said the association should be assisted with a paid officer to help advance the work of the MAPD. In her keynote address, she commended the association members past and present for raising the organisation’s profile and influence.
The government official added that persons with disabilities should not be looked at as charity and social protection cases, but as human beings who deserve the same rights and privileges as everyone else. She said as the Department for Youth, Community Services and Sports is focused on strengthening communities, she looks forward to a closer relationship to advance the goals of the MAPD.
Opposition Member of the Legislative Assembly, Claude Hogan singled out the work of Craig Brewin, the Head of Campaigns for the MAPD for elevating the conversation over the past two years around people with disabilities.
He said that while Montserrat has a history of supporting charitable causes and giving, not much work has been done to enlighten residents about people with disabilities. Hogan said that the government must provide legal protection and ways of delivering service that allows persons with disabilities to join the economy.
“Over the last two years we have made a giant leap. It is very brave that they have challenged the powers that be in Montserrat and the UK” and the selectivity of the British Government on what they help us with,” the politician stated.
Hogan called for more than acceptance of the conventions on disabilities but for the British Government to provide the resources to draft the legislation Montserrat needs and finance the regulatory need for enforcement.
Returning President Harjinder Jutle said over the past year the MAPD has been able to make contributions to conversations and consultations on the inclusion of persons with disabilities. She participated in global discussions on disability and climate change the impact of COVID-19 on persons with disabilities and also gender and disability. On the local level, the MAPD has been invited to make contributions to national policies around health care, improving the prison facilities and they are working to ensure that any new construction projects consider the disabled in their design and programmes.
Jutle said they had to squash plans to host the meeting of the Disabled People’s International North America & the Caribbean as most properties and facilities are not designed for persons with disabilities. Accommodating the disable requires more than ramps, she said. The president did commend the new Montserrat Football Association for their new accommodations which has been designed to be used by persons with disabilities.
Head of Campaigns Craig Brewin said they will be increasing efforts to educate and highlight the current challenges around disabilities on Montserrat. The British Government has repeatedly said that disability is a local government issue.
“This is not simply a welfare issue,” Brewin said. “Montserrat is the only place in the entire English-speaking world with no protection for persons with disabilities. Everyone is pointing at someone else.”
He added that disability is a human rights issue.
Montserrat’s continued focus on buildings ignores the issues of disabilities and inclusivity, he continued. Brewin said key consultant reports such as the Mott MacDonald report on health care, the Stantec social impact report on the Little Bay Port Project highlight the deficiencies in current construction projects that ignore the need for inclusivity. “You can’t ignore an issue because you don’t like the recommendations.”
The Mott MacDonald report states that it would take eight years to set up the funding system needed to manage the hospital. The recommendation was to work out the basic health packages, then design the hospital. If the government had begun five years ago when the report was released, they would only have three years to go to have a system that was inclusive, he challenged.
Montserrat’s health system, Brewin said, benefits government workers with health insurance. Government workers with disabilities are excluded from this coverage and private sector employees without insurance.
“We want a health system that works for everyone; people with diabetes, those with sight loss. For all of us.”