CYPRUS offers the lowest welfare benefits to disabled people across all of Europe, the national Paraplegics Organisation (OPAK) said on Thursday calling on the government to take action now that the country has exited the bailout memorandum.
“Over the past three years we were patient until the country left the memorandum as we understood the difficult situation, despite it not being our fault – not ours nor most of the public,” OPAK said during a news conference in light of Independent Living Day.
Quadriplegics need to have access to quality services of personal assistance and have equal opportunities, accessibility and control of their life, OPAK added.
Independent living does not mean living alone as a a tough disability can sometimes make that impossible but rather “it means have people close to you that are able and willing to work and offer you everything your disability has deprived you of…without depending on charity, relatives and friends”.
OPAK said quadriplegics receive €854 per month from the state, a feat they achieved in 2006 on the basis that for three shifts a week, a domestic worker from a third country would be employed for 150 Cyprus pounds per month.
Today however, a domestic worker doing six days a week for seven hours a day would need about €400 a month, it said.
OPAK’s request is not necessarily more money but at least to have the state provide them with professional assistance.
Disabled persons often fear the employee will abandon them, making replacement very difficult and according to OPAK there were instances where quadriplegic people had to go to a nursing homes despite their young age until they found a new person to assist them.
“Often, our members are desperate as they feel helpless and exploited. The problem stems from the low benefits the state offers these people to buy the necessary services.”
Cyprus spends 3.34 per cent of their social welfare benefits to disabled persons, less than half of the EU average of 7 per cent, OPAK said citing Eurostat figures, placing the island last in the bloc.