National Assembly approves Bill to dissolve councils for elderly and disabled persons |07 October 2021
The Miscellaneous Repeal of Statutes Bill (2021), which seeks to repeal legislation under which the national councils for the Elderly and persons with disabilities were established, was approved by the National Assembly yesterday.
In presenting the Bill, Minister for Youth, Sports and Family Marie-Celine Zialor explained that the dissolving of the councils are a key component of the restructuring towards a leaner and more effective government, so as to create a division under the responsibility of the department of Family.
As such, the minister was seeking the repeal of the National Council for Disabled Persons Act (1994) under which the national council for persons who are living with disabilities was established, and the National Council for the Elderly Act (1997).
The council for disabled persons had among its functions the responsibility to coordinate all private and public activities geared towards persons with disabilities, and in collaboration with either public or private organisations, ensure that persons with disabilities are given care and necessary assistance, promote, develop and organise services and rehabilitation and employment programmes. The council was also responsible for administering the funds for persons with limited functionalities. The fund was established in 2018.
In addition, the council aimed at elderly persons also coordinates programmes and organises both public and private activities that are in the interest of elderly persons, to offer assistance, help and necessary care, as well as advising government on the needs of elderly persons.
“These functions can easily be absorbed by the department of Family, so we can implement the vision of the ministry, and government’s vision. Our approach is to bring about more positive impact for these two groups of people in particular,” Minister Zialor noted.
In debating on the merit of the motion, there was general consensus that the division to be established within the ministry should be more proactive and effective in delivering on their mandate, and catering to the needs of elderly persons and those with functional limitations.
Representative for the inner islands, Hon. Rocky Uranie, highlighted that the councils operated somewhat independently from the government, and questioned whether the decision will impart to the ministry the powers and opportunities to politicise matters pertaining to elderly and persons with disabilities. He sought more information as to what the new administration will be bringing to the table through the division.
Similarly, Hon. Wallace Cosgrow said the move is removing power from the hands of the masses and is rather recentralising the service.
Hon. Audrey Vidot said she is not in favour of the dissolution of the councils, and proposed that government should have held consultations prior to simply imposing the decision, and therefore expressed that she is not in favour.
Members also expressed their wish for further information as to how the division is to operate, coordination with other ministries, departments and agencies, and its budgetary requirements, as compared to the councils.
It was also proposed that there is closer collaboration with civil society organisations who are dedicated to advocating for vulnerable persons in society.
For his part, Hon. Waven William urged that the focus and emphasis be laid on the abilities that persons with functional limitations have and not on their disabilities, going further to state that this has always been the case in the past.
In concluding the debates, Minister Zialor informed assembly members that there have been plenty of consultations, reminding members that the matter was addressed before the assembly during the budget debates.
“What we are doing today comes because we listened to those who are serving on the Council, we listened to the administration and technicians who were working there, we listened to the groups from the two communities who came forward and non-governmental organisations,” Minister Zialor stated.
She went on to note that the ministry has been thoroughly working behind the scenes with the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Trade, and the Office of the Attorney General in coming to the decision.
With regard to the positive impacts of the decision, Minister Zialor noted that absorbing both within the ministry will allow for resources to be shared, and has been working on programmes to bridge the generation gap between the generations.
Addressing questions raised concerning contributions within elderly homes, an analysis is being conducted to determine whether they will have to make contributions.
In ending, Minister Zialor urged all to play a role and join the ministry in its efforts to cater to the two groups of persons.
Also present on the panel were principal secretary for Family Clive Roucou, and senior legal draftsperson at the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) Amelie Nourrice.
The Bill was approved by 20 votes in favour. Five members voted against.