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Benefits system for disabled to be overhauled

parking, parking lot, disabled parking, handicapped parking, parking space

The government on Tuesday pledged to overhaul the benefits system for disabled people, by de-linking it from the Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) which currently also covers such persons.

In parliament, Deputy Welfare Minister Marilena Evangelou spoke of “a strong political will to decouple benefits [for the disabled] from GMI”.

She said she and her team have already discussed this with the Confederation Organisation of the Disabled, and that more meetings would follow. Other organisations would join the consultation process, with a view to drafting legislation specific to benefits for the disabled.

The deputy minister asserted that the matter has her personal attention. The envisioned legislation would cover aspects such as social inclusion, rehabilitation, benefits and services.

Organisations representing people with disabilities say that incorporating them into the GMI system – introduced back in 2014 – has in fact caused them to lose about 40 per cent of the benefits they used to be entitled to.

Head of the Confederation Christakis Nicolaides spoke of their frustration of having raised the matter several times in the past, to no avail. But, he added, the current minister has convinced them she has the desire and commitment to change things.

Nicolaides told MPs they want state funds allocated to helping the disabled to increase by €60 million. And without new legislation, Cyprus would “get left behind and rank bottom of the EU”.

Head of Organisation for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled Stelios Theofilou opined that the government would take too long in bringing legislation – so parliament should step in with its own bill instead.

However, the deputy minister interjected, saying it would be better for the government to draft the bill as it has the data at hand.

Also attending the discussion in parliament were people familiar with psychic disorders. They pointed out, for example, that the benefits policy should also cover people with Adhd (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

Such psychic disorders should not be ignored simply because they’re not readily visible, they added.

Akel MP Andreas Kafkalias, chair of the House labour committee, said more needs to be done so that “we can pass from words to actions”.

The committee will review the matter every two months to see whether progress has been made.

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