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Govt and SNAG at odds over disability services

The Gibraltar Government and the Special Needs Action Group have clashed over the provision of disability services available in Gibraltar.  

The Gibraltar Government said it was “surprised at the tone and the timing” of a public statement by the group which followed a recent meeting with Government Ministers, Samantha Sacramento and Dr John Cortes last week.  

But SNAG said it “will not cease in its commitment to achieve the necessary change that is needed” and it remains firm in its commitment to better the lives of people with disabilities and their families. 

A statement from No.6 Convent Place said that during the meeting held last Thursday, SNAG’s proposals were discussed at length and “to a great extent coincided with areas in which the Government also wants to progress”.  

“The meeting concluded with a commitment from the Government to give consideration to SNAG’s plans in detail, and await further information from SNAG before providing a response,” the Government statement read.  

The Government said it has also committed itself in support of the creation of the new Special Education Needs (SEN) facilities at the old St. Martin’s School site that will be run by the charity, PossAbilities, and will complement existing services already run by Government.  

“PossAbilities have already done a presentation on what services they want to supply and the Government urges any person wishing to learn more about this to contact the charity directly,” the Government said.  

“The Government would also like to highlight the recent work and restructuring by the Care Agency that has been developed specifically to better meet current needs and the Care Agency continuously strives to improve standards in conjunction with best practice guidelines.” 

“The Care Agency’s Community Learning Disability Team manage Respite Services for both children and adults and have been actively working to improve the service.”  

“The staff who are offering Respite and Home Support have been specifically identified for the Respite Team.”  

“They have received both in-house and bespoke training to work with children and adults with learning disabilities, in addition to the same mandatory core training as Care Agency employed staff, in accordance with Care Agency learning and development standards and policies.” 

“The Care Agency Care Workers are also given tailored guidance on the deliverance of care depending on the needs of the individual from the Respite Manager.” 

Minister for Equality, Samantha Sacramento, said: “I can understand that receiving the right service is very important, and the needs of all services users and their families are different.” 

“We have to bear in mind the tremendous progress that has been made in the field of disabilities in the last 10 years, but that being said, Government is continuously looking at ways of improving services further.” 

“Furthermore, I have no doubt that the new SEN centre which will be run by the charity PossAbilities will be of great use to service users.”  

“The Government will continue in its commitment to supporting this venture as well as to continuously improve its services going forward.” 

Following the response from the Gibraltar Government, SNAG said it wanted to take the opportunity to remind the Government of the “crucial role that NGOs, charities and grassroots activism have historically and continue to play in helping mobilise issues of human rights, capturing public attention towards these issues and empowering persons and communities to initiate social and as well as legal change”.  

“SNAG will not cease in its commitment to achieve the necessary change that is needed and is firm in its commitment to the betterment of the lives of persons with disabilities, additional needs and the families who support them,” it said in a statement.  

“To this end, the [Gibraltar Government] should not be surprised with the timing of any of our press releases, because our meetings will always be productive.”  

“SNAG has always demonstrated the productive nature of its charity work via many initiatives which are supporting numerous persons and families.”  

“We have also attended many meetings which have involved extensive proposals and solutions for the Government to take on and provide themselves - by way of services and provisions and not through the continued reliance of NGOs.”  

“This open dialogue and productivity will never mean however, that SNAG, as an effective action group, will cease to publicly raise the slow progress made on the ground on the many significant issues which it continues to highlight and which continue to impact many persons and families in an acute way.” 

SNAG expressed its support for PossAbilities, but added that this “add on service” that will run on a similar model to Clubhouse Gibraltar “will not resolve the issues that have been highlighted”.  

“To allude to any impression that this NGO is the solution to the issues we have highlighted is a misrepresentation that should not be made as those who require support by way of government services and provisions are entitled know how these are going to be improved and when,” the action group said.  

SNAG said PossAbilities will not be a fulltime further education centre run by the Department of Education, nor will it serve as an overnight respite facility.  

It will not be run on a model based on Asansull in La Linea, which “does not resolve the severe therapy shortage in Gibraltar”.  

It added that it was disappointed in the Government’s “failure to respond to its core issues” such as respite care.  

“By the Care Agency’s own admission, care workers are subcontracted from care companies with only basic training on care and supervisions,” SNAG said.  

“Even within the respite team, there are families who can not be given respite because the care agency is unable to identify carers with appropriate training to deal with children/young adults with more complex needs or behavioural issues.” 

“Families are desperate, and turn to departments who are meant to assist them to find that they do not have the resources to be able to do so.” 

“SNAG is therefore aware that although progress has been made in the last ten years, but notes that there have also been many areas within the field of disability where progress has been far too slow,” the action group said.   

“SNAG can respectfully direct those concerned with the contents of this press release to numerous families who have been crossing the frontier for the past 10 years to ensure their loved ones are receiving the therapy and intervention they need, a testament to how slowly some of the issues are actually progressing.”  

“SNAG is however delighted to hear that the Government is committed to improving services further, and is hopeful that solutions are taken on board and delivered effectively by way of government services and provisions to make for a better Gibraltar for these persons and their families.” 

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