So­cial justice builds the na­tion’s pros­per­ity

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

Dr Caru­ana is Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary for the Rights of Peo­ple with Dis­abil­ity and Ac­tive Age­ing

Na­tional feasts and their an­nual com­mem­o­ra­tions come and go, but it is the fruit of hard work that leaves its in­deli­ble and last­ing mark on the well­be­ing of the na­tion. The in­ces­sant work car­ried out by the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter and Malta En­ter­prise since 2013 has brought hun­dreds of mil­lions in for­eign in­vest­ment. Be­sides creat­ing thou­sands of new jobs in var­i­ous sec­tors, it has se­cured Malta’s rep­u­ta­tion as a re­li­able and trust­wor­thy coun­try with a fast de­vel­op­ing econ­omy, cer­ti­fied time and again by top in­ter­na­tional credit rat­ing agen­cies.

Our re­gained pros­per­ity

Sta­tis­tics – how­ever sci­en­tific and elo­quent – may some­times sound im­per­sonal but the feelgood fac­tor in Malta and Gozo is a re­al­ity that no one can deny, by what­ever mea­sure they may wish to jus­tify their neg­a­tive state­ments. In line with the prin­ci­ples of so­cial justice, the com­ing months will in fact see fur­ther dis­sem­i­na­tion of the na­tion’s re­gained pros­per­ity. Wel­come news such as the mil­lions of for­eign in­vest­ment from around the world – and not merely limited to the EU– fur­ther strengthen the gov­ern­ment’s hands in mov­ing on at a stead­ier step to im­ple­ment what is left of its elec­toral com­mit­ments.

With a tire­less Prime Min­is­ter who ex­ceeds all ex­pec­ta­tions in his trav­els by seek­ing all pos­si­ble av­enues to at­tract long-last­ing in­vest­ment, our team as a Cabi­net can forge ahead with im­ple­ment­ing our plans in our var­i­ous sec­tors. Dr Mus­cat’s visit to the United Na­tions’ Gen­eral Assem­bly was not wasted on sight-see­ing tours, but rather on var­i­ous bi­lat­eral talks and de­bates where he is lis­tened to as a Euro­pean leader on di­verse in­ter­na­tional sce­nar­ios, and not merely rep­re­sent­ing the geo­graph­i­cally small coun­try that we are. It is in­deed a plea­sure to see our young states­man be­ing quoted by renowned chan­nels like CNN, Bloomberg and SkyNews. It is cer­tainly a far cry from the chronic petty is­sues blown up for par­ti­san gains by who­ever is power hun­gry and en­dem­i­cally delu­sional.

In his strong speech to the UN Assem­bly of world lead­ers, he did not sim­ply dwell on the cus­tom­ary ap­peals for peace, but spelled out all that is caus­ing con­flict around the globe, hom­ing in on faults that ought to have long been mended and scars that have not healed well. Dr Mus­cat has the priv­i­lege to look any world leader in the eye, well aware that tiny Malta speaks loudly and acts clearly in any re­gional or world fo­rum in de­fence of the ba­sic prin­ci­ples of so­cial justice and equal­ity.

Pre-bud­get dis­cus­sions

The ses­sion Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ed­ward Sci­cluna held in Gozo last week pre­sented me with the op­por­tu­nity of giving an over­view of the im­ple­men­ta­tion of Labour’s pro­pos­als so far and what more needs to be done to fur­ther sus­tain the progress achieved. Con­sid­er­ing that the na­tional econ­omy had grown at three times the rate of the av­er­age growth in EU coun­tries, I men­tioned with pride the great eco­nomic progress achieved in Gozo through the en­deav­ours of my gov­ern­ment as a whole.

Over and above the un­prece­dented suc­cesses at­tained in the tourist in­dus­try and the mul­ti­mil­lion in­fras­truc­tural projects, Goz­i­tans have seen the in­tro­duc­tion of sev­eral ini­tia­tives in the so­cial sec­tor – par­tic­u­larly in those serv­ing the el­derly and dis­abil­ity com­mu­ni­ties. The Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tariat for which I am re­spon­si­ble has brought res­i­den­tial, shel­ter and respite ser­vices for the first time nearer to home. Suf­fice to say that for the first time we have en­tered into var­i­ous pub­lic pri­vate agree­ments to take our el­derly out of the hospi­tal and find res­i­den­tial ar­range­ments for them in pri­vate or church homes, re­spect­ing them as clients or res­i­dents rather than pa­tients, as was the habit for years on end.

In the dis­abil­ity sec­tor, the Għa­jn­sielem Learn­ing Hub stands out as an im­por­tant cen­tre for train­ing to­wards em­ploy­a­bil­ity with pro­fes­sional in­put by Aġen­z­ija Sap­port, ETC and MCA. Another first is our agree­ment with Mal­taPost that has landed 80 new jobs for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. Dar il-Fjuri in Ra­bat is also a land­mark project for these peo­ple who can now re­side in­de­pen­dently within the com­mu­nity – one of 10 sim­i­lar res­i­dences pledged by this gov­ern­ment. This adds up to the first ever Gozo of­fices for KNPD and Gozo Special Olympics. The €200 mil­lion in­vest­ment for the up­grad­ing of Gozo’s hospi­tal and the new med­i­cal school tops the long list of in­vest­ments se­cured for the sis­ter is­land. The com­ing months will fur­ther de­velop these and other projects to con­sol­i­date the pros­per­ity al­ready achieved in full ad­her­ence to so­cial justice.

Stan­dards for res­i­den­tial homes

In the first week of Au­gust, I launched a con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod on the min­i­mum stan­dards for res­i­den­tial homes, at the end of which a rel­a­tive Bill will be tabled in Par­lia­ment for the es­tab­lish­ment of an au­ton­o­mous author­ity to se­cure and en­force such stan­dards. These will be ap­pli­ca­ble to all state, pri­vate and church homes and will play an im­por­tant role in the is­sue of new li­cences for such homes. We are com­mit­ted to en­sure that our el­ders are given the qual­ity ser­vices they de­serve, to the point of fin­ing man­age­ments who do not meet the es­tab­lished stan­dards.

The new author­ity will have the power to mon­i­tor, in­spect and en­force the es­tab­lished rules and stan­dard set­tings in a dis­ci­plined man­ner through reg­u­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion with res­i­dents, fam­ily and close friends, staff, man­agers and oth­ers. Mon­i­tor­ing, in­ves­ti­gat­ing and ob­serv­ing the daily life and man­age­ment of each home, to­gether with an au­dit of writ­ten poli­cies, pro­ce­dures and records, and reg­u­lar in­spec­tions will be part of the new author­ity’s tasks.

Pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion

The con­sul­ta­tion process will this week come to a con­clu­sion dur­ing a sem­i­nar for all stake­hold­ers, with the spe­cific aim of up­grad­ing ser­vices in the sec­tor to the de­sired lev­els and stan­dards. The bill set­ting up such a na­tional author­ity will specif­i­cally en­sure the en­force­ment of the min­i­mum stan­dards that ac­knowl­edge the unique and com­plex needs and rights of each in­di­vid­ual re­sid­ing in a care home.

In line with Malta’s Na­tional Pol­icy and Strat­egy for Ac­tive Age­ing, the new author­ity will en­sure that the mis­sion of care homes should go be­yond the tra­di­tional con­cept of ‘el­derly care’ and en­able res­i­dents to re­alise their full po­ten­tial for phys­i­cal, so­cial and men­tal well-be­ing. It is another way of en­sur­ing an in­de­pen­dent life­style – in other words, we mean to add life to older years.

Dementia aware­ness and care

Two events marked World Alzheimer Day last week. To­gether with Mr Speaker Dr An­gelo Far­ru­gia, I un­veiled a very in­for­ma­tive ex­hi­bi­tion on dementia aware­ness at the Par­lia­ment build­ing. Only last year we had launched the Na­tional Dementia Strat­egy with round-the-clock helpline 1771 and a vast train­ing pro­gramme for hun­dreds of em­ploy­ees in the el­derly sec­tor, be­sides spon­sor­ing a Masters Course for fur­ther re­search in a fast spread­ing con­di­tion that is cur­rently dis­abling over 6,000 el­derly. The ex­hi­bi­tion, which is open to the end of the month, of­fers spe­cific in­for­ma­tion and con­tact de­tails.

The day was fur­ther marked with the open­ing of a €265,000 new ward at St Vin­cent de Paul, host­ing 24 dementia stricken res­i­dents. The new premises, a sec­ond of their kind, were specif­i­cally com­pleted in record time and to high stan­dards with the full co­op­er­a­tion of the Fa­cil­ity’s man­age­ment and work­ers. Sim­i­lar work is on-go­ing for ad­di­tional dementia beds at the Mtarfa home, to­gether with a pro­jected ex­ten­sion of Dar Padova in Gozo – a new initiative to be launched in the com­ing days.

In line with both our Na­tional Strate­gies for Dementia and Ac­tive Age­ing, I am com­mit­ted on be­half of the Labour gov­ern­ment to strive fur­ther and en­sure full dig­nity, em­pow­er­ment and high qual­ity ser­vices to our se­nior cit­i­zens, both in res­i­den­tial homes and within the com­mu­nity.

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