Future uncertain for disability services

Monday 2 September 2013 | Published in Health


The future of some disability services is under question as the end of a long-term fund approaches.

The ADB Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR) project has provided more than $300,000 over two years to homecare and nursing services in the Cooks, particularly the outer islands. This source of funding will end in July next year, raising the question of whether some of these projects will be able to continue.

The projects – the Mangaia Elderbility Project, the Mauke Homecare Programme, meals on wheels projects on Aitu and Aitutaki and Te Vaerua in Rarotonga – employ 19 people via the fund. These are mostly women, with 13 positions funded for in the outer islands.

ADB-JFPR national project manager Debbie Ave said the services have become highly valuable for the elderly and disabled as well as the wider community, and it is hoped more funding will be found.

“Other alternative options for on-going funding and sustainability are being discussed by communities and local government to see whether these projects will be able to continue beyond next competition date,” she said.

Minister of Health Nandi Glassie said he is aware services for the elderly and disabled are struggling for funding and said he has discussed the matter with secretary of health Elizabeth Iro.

However, he said government funds are limited.

“There’s no compulsory giving out (of funding) because we are living on a lean and mean budget as well,” he said.

In addition to $60,000 from the JFPR, Te Vaerua has received long-term funding through the Social Impact Fund (SIF) - $405,000 over the next three years – and so will have its core costs covered during this time. However, other services currently funded by the JFPR will need further funding next year to continue their care.

Ave said the services have created a greater awareness of the plight of the elderly and people with a disability.

“(They) often suffered in silence and were often the invisible members of our communities,” she said.

“These projects, such as the one in Mauke for instance, have bought people together. Elderly persons who live on the same island but haven’t seen old friends living in other villages for many years are been brought together at monthly gatherings at the Mauke Disability Centre where they sing, socialise, eat, tell stories about the old days and share life experiences. This has helped to reconnect people, mend old friendships and establish some new ones.”

The homecare and nursing services are one of the first to be established in the South Pacific, said Ave, with over 150 people receiving services during 2013 to 2014.

“An increased ageing population is a global phenomenon, with smaller families in this century, and on-going issues of migration. Those who traditionally in the past would have taken care of their aging parents and grandparents are no longer here, or for some those values no longer mean anything and they choose not to want to take on the responsibility of caring for aging family members or those love ones that have a disability,” said Ave.

“For those in our communities who do choose to hold on to those traditional values and care for their loved ones in their homes, this is often a difficult, stressful task – particularly if you are juggling employment, family, community, church and financial responsibilities.”

Ave said high-needs elderly or high-needs people with disabilities are at risk of abuse physical, verbally and financially.

“That is why supporting these families through the ADB JFPR homecare and nursing services is so essential. Respite care just takes a little pressure off families who cannot afford the cost of a caregiver, as we currently provide a free service.

“It also makes some families just that little bit more accountable for their actions and hopefully will reduce some of the risk and stress that comes with the role of taking care of the persons with a disabilities or elderly family members.”