Call for THA to increase disability grant

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Trinidad and Tobago Chapter of Persons with Disabilities PRO Kerwin Thomas speaks to the media before Sunday’s Labour Day march from Gulf City Mall, Lowlands, to Scarborough. – David Reid

A call has been made for the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) to increase the grant for people with disabilities, to mitigate the impact of high food prices and increase in the cost of goods and services.

Public relations officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Chapter of Persons with Disabilities Kerwin Thomas made the call on Sunday before a Labour Day march in Tobago.

Addressing workers at the Gulf City Mall, Lowlands, Thomas said, “What we are urging the THA, Mr Watson Duke (THA Deputy Chief Secretary) and the goodly Chief Secretary of Tobago (Farley Augustine), in your budget presentation on Thursday, we would like you all to revisit the remuneration package for persons who are differently-abled, from $2,000 to at least $2,500 a month, because of the rising cost of food, transportation, cost of living. It is very, very hard for a person who is differently-abled to live on $2,000.”

He said if the THA is able to bring about an increase in the disability grant, it will set a precedent.

“We are saying that if Mr Watson Duke and Mr Farley Augustine come about and bring this change for people who are differently-abled, for the disadvantaged, for the downtrodden, for the people who have never left their home in six years, some of them two years, some of them 17 years, this will set a precedent. And I hope it sets a precedent for the government of Trinidad and Tobago so that they will follow suit.”

Thomas, who is also the president of the Eastern Regional Assembly of the TT Chapter of Persons with Disabilities, applauded the THA’s decision recently to increase the salaries of Cepep and URP workers on the island.

But he said people with disabilities also need more money.

“Persons with disabilities live below the poverty line. I have never gotten a cheque as it relates to disability grant but there are hundreds and thousands of persons who do.”

Thomas said TT has 52,000 differently-abled people, around three per cent of the population.

“In Trinidad, there are numerous amounts of persons who are differently-abled. Persons who are blind, deaf and those who are physically challenged, autism, you name it.”

He said a disability may not always be visible.

“Some people feel a disability is something that is seen. You could see somebody walking down the street and they appear to have their faculties intact but they are differently-abled. They probably have autism or some hidden disability.”

Thomas also said that many people with disabilities were not being given food cards.

He noted that an audit was carried out by the Ministry of Social Development in January to “weed out” some of the people who should not be receiving food cards.

However, Thomas said some differently-abled people are being told that they cannot access the food cards because they already receive a grant of $2,000.

“That is nonsense because the food card is supposed to be a support and a buffer for persons who are differently-abled….”

He said some of them have a lot of expenses, including transportation costs.

“So $2,000 is not enough and we are saying now in Tobago, we needs to revisit the policy as it relates to the food cards for the differently-abled and the downtrodden so that it could be mandated in policy that everyone who is differently-abled in Trinidad and Tobago are mandated to get a food card.”