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Karousos: Society needs to cultivate more respect for people with disabilities  

Cyprus needs to improve its perception, attitudes, and behaviours towards diversity, acting Labour Minister Yiannis Karousos said Saturday, while presenting the completed and coming actions to support people with disabilities.

Karousos, who is currently acting as interim labour minister while Zeta Emilianidou remains hospitalised abroad after suffering an aneurism last month, greeted the annual general assembly of the Cyprus Confederation of Organisations of the Disabled (CCOD).

People with disabilities constitute a “large, vulnerable and important” part of Cypriot society, he said. The minister explained that it is the obligation of the state but also society in general, to support and empower these people so that they remain active and integrated in the community.

“Everyone…has a role to play in fostering the right culture to approach disability,” Karousos said as he thanked CCOD for their work.

He added “above all, there’s a need to…improve the level of respect in Cypriot society for the rights of people with disabilities,” explaining that people’s perceptions, attitudes and behaviours towards people’s diversity must improve.

To comprehensively address the issues of persons with disabilities and ensure their rights, cabinet approved the first national disability strategy for 2018-2028 in December 2017, under which three-year national disability action plans are being implemented.

Karousos said the second national action plan (2018-2020) included 86 actions and involved eight different ministries, of which 54 were fully implemented, 26 partially implemented while six of them were not implemented.

Among the completed actions were increased benefits as well as the creation of a new disability assessment centre in Larnaca, which together with the centres in Nicosia and Limassol-Paphos carried out assessments for 20,000 people.

Seven new assisted living houses were created in the community where 28 persons with intellectual disabilities and four persons with visual disabilities were integrated. Another 11 residences operated for people with autism or intellectual disabilities.

Furthermore, Karousos said the state subsidised 23 employment programmes and self-employment units for people with disabilities as well as all operating costs of the CCOD.

Some 135 actions are currently being implemented under the third national action plan for disability 2021-2023. These concern 58 new actions and 77 ongoing which involve eight ministries and three deputy ministries.

The acting minister highlighted that in formulating the action plan “we took into account the requests, opinions and suggestions of the representative organisations of persons with disabilities,” mainly the CCOD and the Pancyprian alliance for disability.

He said the aim is to keep up with modern trends and “taking into account the demands of the citizens directly concerned, but also within the framework of the capabilities and resources of the state.”

Listing some of the new actions of the labour ministry, Karousos said the supported living programmes for adults are expected to be expanded, co-financed with €20m by the European social fund, while new legislation will provide for the introduction of new services to support independent living of the vulnerable groups, such as personal assistant, counsellor and trainer.

The ministry will also provide incentives and support for the creation of social enterprises by persons with disabilities, through the formulation of advisory and vocational training tools in entrepreneurship.

The operation of the first centre for autism family support and intervention will also be extended, co-financed by the European Social Fund at a cost of €5m.

Another important new action is the implementation of the new €50,000 pilot project for the provision of decision support counselling services for persons with disabilities which was approved on March 22 this year. Under the scheme, three counsellors will provide free services to at least 30 adults with disabilities to support their decision making. An additional annual €70,000 grant by the social inclusion of persons with disabilities department will be dedicated to this programme, Karousos said.

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