Labour’s high rank­ing within the EU

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

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

Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat’s as­pi­ra­tion for Malta to be the best in Europe is con­sis­tently be­ing re­alised in var­i­ous sec­tors. It is al­ready re­mark­able that in the first three years un­der Labour’s guid­ance, Malta has achieved the high­est rate of eco­nomic growth among all EU mem­ber states, recorded the high­est em­ploy­ment fig­ures and hit the low­est lev­els in un­em­ploy­ment. Some might be of the opin­ion that how­ever ex­cep­tional these re­sults may be, they can only be mea­sured in real terms through the di­rect ben­e­fits for in­di­vid­ual Mal­tese and Goz­i­tans.

They con­ve­niently wish to ig­nore the ev­i­dent feel-good fac­tor around and dis­re­gard the con­spic­u­ous so­cial mark of the Bud­get 2017 tan­gi­ble mea­sures. The bad news for such so­called ex­pert ob­servers is that the peo­ple them­selves know and feel a lot bet­ter than all the doom and gloom they are con­tin­u­ously bom­barded with.

Malta’s in­ter­na­tional re­sults

Achiev­ing high po­si­tions in most rank­ings among the 28 mem­ber states may have be­come a rou­tine event that many tend to take for granted. Dr Mus­cat’s con­sis­tent high trust rates seem to be well-es­tab­lished, putting peo­ple’s minds at rest that the coun­try is in safe hands. The EU’s sta­tis­ti­cal re­sults keep con­firm­ing the Mal­tese gov­ern­ment’s suc­cess­ful per­for­mance in var­i­ous sec­tors.

Last Thurs­day we had the lat­est such state­ment which said that healthy life ex­pectancy among EU mem­ber states is high­est in Malta. Healthy Life Years (HLY) is a mea­sure of dis­abil­ity-free life ex­pectancy which in­di­cates how long peo­ple can ex­pect to live with­out lim­i­ta­tions to their nor­mal ac­tiv­i­ties.

The Euro­pean Health at a Glance re­port says that on av­er­age across EU mem­ber states, HLY at birth in 2014 was 61.8 years for women and 61.4 years for men. It was high­est in Malta and Swe­den for both women and men (above 70 years), and short­est in the Slo­vak Repub­lic, Latvia and Por­tu­gal for women, and in Latvia, Es­to­nia and the Slo­vak Repub­lic for men.

Life ex­pectancy is high­est in Malta

Life ex­pectancy in Malta was recorded as 83.7 for women and 79.3 for men, sur­pass­ing the EU av­er­age – 83.6 and 78.1 years re­spec­tively. Malta also shares the high­est place with Swe­den, with women ex­pected to live more than 85 per cent of their life ex­pectancy with­out lim­i­ta­tions in their usual ac­tiv­i­ties, while this pro­por­tion reached over 90 per cent for men.

This is in­deed very en­cour­ag­ing news for the Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tariat I lead for Ac­tive Age­ing and Com­mu­nity Care, to­gether with the rel­a­tive ser­vices pro­vided by the Health Min­istry and that for So­cial Sol­i­dar­ity. The lat­est news of the high stan­dards of healthy life­styles is in­deed sat­is­fy­ing and in­spir­ing for me and my col­leagues, but in it­self is an added im­pe­tus for us to work harder to main­tain the high lev­els achieved. It poses fur­ther chal­lenges we will face by dou­bling our re­solve in the com­ing years to strengthen res­i­den­tial and com­mu­nity based ser­vices, in­clud­ing domi­cil­iary care, which fall un­der my re­mit which has a ma­jor role to enhance the qual­ity of life of older per­sons.

This was the mes­sage I wanted to con­vey dur­ing the an­nounce­ment of our new agree­ment with St El­iz­a­beth Home to add an­other 150 to our bed pro­vi­sion. This will cater for all lev­els of de­pen­dency and will in­clude respite ser­vices and dementia day care to­gether with our pri­or­ity for this year to pro­vide ser­vices for cou­ples both in Malta and for the first time in Gozo in Villa San Lawrenz.

An im­por­tant meet­ing on autism

Dur­ing the past week I par­tic­i­pated in a well-at­tended con­fer­ence or­gan­ised by MEP Miriam Dalli on autism. As pol­icy-maker I re­it­er­ated my con­cern about the ex­ist­ing frag­men­ta­tion in the dis­abil­ity sec­tor. This un­der­mines the max­i­mum util­i­sa­tion of re­sources avail­able and the con­tin­uum of ser­vice pro­vi­sion re­quired at dif­fer­ent stages in life.

The Per­sons in the Autism Spec­trum Em­pow­er­ment Act en­acted by the gov­ern­ment ear­lier this year is land­mark leg­is­la­tion. The State Sup­port Plan en­vis­aged in this new law will be com­piled by the stake­hold­ers them­selves and in­cludes peo­ple with autism and their fam­i­lies who, to­gether with other en­ti­ties in­volved in autism, will com­pose a na­tional coun­cil. This en­sures that the coun­try re­sponds in a de­ci­sive man­ner to what this sec­tor de­serves in a co­or­di­nated and seam­less man­ner.

The law it­self aims at the em­pow­er­ment of per­sons within the autism spec­trum by pro­vid­ing for their health and well­be­ing in so­ci­ety. It also en­vis­ages the bet­ter­ment of their liv­ing con­di­tions, their par­tic­i­pa­tion and in­clu­sion in so­ci­ety. It is also meant to make an­cil­lary and con­se­quen­tial pro­vi­sions in full ad­her­ence to the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on the Rights of Per­sons with Dis­abil­ity – which we are cur­rently adopt­ing in full as part of Mal­tese Law.

Self-de­ter­mi­na­tion

The new idea of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion, as stated in the rel­a­tive Act, proves that we, as a so­ci­ety, can be more ef­fec­tive with­out knee-jerk so­lu­tions, and cre­ate space for in­de­pen­dent long-term so­lu­tions, pi­loted by these per­sons them­selves.

The un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion is that we still haven’t got enough knowl­edge on how best to im­ple­ment principles around a uni­ver­sal de­sign, es­pe­cially in our ed­u­ca­tional and so­cial wel­fare sys­tem. We also need to strengthen the aware­ness that seems to be lack­ing in the gen­eral pub­lic. How­ever, our chal­lenge re­mains in in­vest­ing in our chil­dren and young peo­ple who are the lead­ers that need to see this.

This is no easy task but it is the so­lu­tion if we want to have a sound foot­ing in this sec­tor. It is fun­da­men­tal to have sound and in­clu­sive ed­u­ca­tional struc­tures that are able to re­spond to the needs of these stu­dents.

In­fec­tion preven­tion and con­trol

Last week, the St Vin­cent de Paul Long-term Care Fa­cil­ity man­age­ment in­vited me to in­au­gu­rate its an­nual ma­jor ed­u­ca­tional event, the In­fec­tion Preven­tion and Con­trol Con­fer­ence. This year’s theme ‘Fac­ing the Chal­lenges’ fo­cused mainly on an­tibi­otic us­age and health­care-as­so­ci­ated in­fec­tions and cur­rent is­sues in con­trol prac­tices which were ex­panded and dis­cussed by learned speak­ers.

In my in­tro­duc­tory speech I re­ferred to re­cent fig­ures is­sued by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, show­ing that there is an oc­cur­rence of be­tween 3.5 per cent and 12 per cent health­care re­lated in­fec­tions in de­vel­oped coun­tries. Es­tab­lished pro­ce­dures need to be strictly fol­lowed by health pro­fes­sion­als and paramed­i­cal staff in or­der to avoid en­dan­ger­ing pa­tients’ health lev­els that could also be fa­tal. It is a known fact that de­spite stan­dard pre­cau­tions taken, the Euro­pean Cen­tre for Dis­ease Preven­tion and Con­trol still notes that up to seven per cent of pa­tients may get var­i­ous in­fec­tions.

While con­grat­u­lat­ing St Vin­cent de Paul’s man­age­ment for such an ed­u­ca­tional event, I wish to ex­press my heart­felt ap­pre­ci­a­tion to all em­ploy­ees who rig­or­ously abide by set pro­ce­dures through­out their long days and nights of ded­i­cated ser­vice which was in fact recog­nised and awarded at the same event.

Use­ful in­for­ma­tion meet­ings

Among other sched­uled events, last Wed­nes­day I launched a series of in­for­ma­tion meet­ings about the many Bud­get 2017 so­cial mea­sures. The nu­mer­ous ini­tia­tives may need some ex­plain­ing for peo­ple who may not be fully aware of what ben­e­fits they are en­ti­tled to as from next Jan­uary. Of­fi­cials from the Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tariat for the Rights of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties and Ac­tive Age­ing and de­part­ments ad­dress such meet­ings and an­swer in de­tail queries made about eli­gi­bil­ity and time-frames and the var­i­ous mea­sures that will be soon in­tro­duced to thou­sands of peo­ple and their fam­i­lies in the dis­abil­ity and el­derly sec­tors.

With the first meet­ings held in Mosta and Xewk­ija, oth­ers will be held through De­cem­ber and Jan­uary in Paola, Qormi, Birkirkara and Għarb in Gozo. Such in­for­ma­tive gath­er­ings are meant to re­duce the pos­si­bil­ity of com­plaints by some per­sons who will not be aware that they are the real ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the nu­mer­ous bud­getary mea­sures. This too helps all those who the Bud­get 2017 is meant to sup­port, as Labour pro­gresses on it path to have a so­ci­ety that is fair, sup­port­ive and all in­clu­sive.

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