SNAG To Continue To Provide As Much Support To Disabled Persons And Their Families As They Possibly Can
Below follows a statement from SNAG:
2023 will bring challenges to us all in different fronts but we must reflect on the state of disability issues in Gibraltar. Some, will want you to believe that disabled persons and their families have the best services money can buy. They will will say that they have brand new schools and facilities and that the service they are given is second to none. They will proclaim that more comprehensive legislation to protect the rights of disabled persons is not needed as they believe that we are fully protected under the law and the constitution. They will make you believe that disabled persons have equal rights but this is not the reality we live in.
There maybe no money to go around, but the fact is that there is severe under-resourcing to departments that are involved in the provision of disability/special educational needs in Gibraltar. This is adversely affecting service users and their families. SNAG is continuously bombarded with emails, phone calls and messages of parents who are at the point of desperation. These same parents have gone through the official side before turning to us.
Some of these parents have been waiting for months (and some for years) waiting for essential specialist equipment such as specialised mobility chairs from the GHA. A distressed parent wrote:
‘I write to you to let you know that my daughter has not had a home chair since the beginning of summer. She has grown out of it and apparently has been awaiting approval for funding since then. I did raise the issue with the secretary of the DG at GHA with no reply, made a formal complaint at the PALS office still waiting for a response.’
Young adults, whose private mental health care provisions in our neighbouring towns have been stopped due to a lack of funding, only to find that there are no adequate provisions to replace these locally. An anxious parent describes her story:
‘From the perspective of a mother of a mainstream SEN child in upper primary, my main concerns relate to the severe lack of psychological care for our kids in Gibraltar. I was told in June that a new team of psychologists had started and that I should stop sending my child privately as she would be seen by the GHA team... I'm still waiting for an appointment.
Furthermore, she had still not been formally assessed by the GHA (we have done this privately at our own expense). We've been to multiple GPs and Paediatric clinic appointments but we're just regurgitating the same information without moving forwards.’
There are parents who have to continue to cross the frontier on a daily basis to provide essential Speech, Physio and/or Occupational therapy, at their own expense, for their children as there isn’t sufficient provision in Gibraltar.
St Martins Schools is already at full capacity, 18 months after its opening. SNAG is very concerned with the immediate future of existing pupils and especially of this year’s intake. It appears that lessons have not been learnt!
Mainstream schools are struggling to adequately meet the requirements of an ever increasing compliment of students within their SEND registers.
There are many children in our community who have been waiting to be diagnosed, by the GHA, for a number of years. Yes, this is not a typo, Years! Unfortunately, some of these children will inevitably fall through the cracks and will not receive adequate services during their developing years.
Parents keep highlighting the fact that the Multi Disciplinary Reviews are not held as frequently as they should and there are times that, even when these occur, a consultant is not present. A frustrated parent wrote to us:
‘We had an "MDA" with his teacher, deputy head, OT, physio and SLT...no paediatrician present, despite his biggest issue still being his epilepsy. It's a joke…’
St Bernadette’s Centre and Dr Giraldi Residential Services is overcrowded, not age appropriate and also in a sad state. We firmly believe that it is time to urgently address this. It is time to invest in this area for the good of both the service users and the professionals who provide the best service they can.
Respite provision is of paramount importance to families with disabled children and parents should not have to wait months on end for this service to be offered.
Gibraltar, thankfully, has a very caring cohort of professionals that work tirelessly, on a daily basis, putting the service user at the very top of their priority. We recognise their enormous efforts working, in most cases, in under-resourced and under-funded departments. These professionals make the best of what they have and their achievements are nothing short of a miracle!
The fact is that our very hard working professionals deserve more resources and greater support for the sake of the service users and their families!
SNAG will continue to highlight the issues and meet with all the relevant stakeholders. We will continue to work with all the professionals delivering services to the disabled community and provide as much support as we can. SNAG will also continue to provide as much support to disabled persons and their families as we possibly can.