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UNICEF recommends social programme for Jamaican children with disabilities

By Halshane Burke 

The United Nation's Children Fund (UNICEF) is recommending a separate social safety net programme for Jamaican children with disabilities.

UNICEF says a study it commissioned in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security found that the monthly costs of caring for a child with disabilities far outstrip the income of many Jamaican families.

More than 60 per cent of the respondents in the study reported that half or nearly all of their household income goes towards caring for the child with a disability. 

They added that they were are unable to afford many of the services such as routine therapy.

The report, "Caring for Children with Disabilities: Managing the Triple Threat to Families", found that while respondents' monthly earnings did not exceed $29,000, most families with a child with a disability spend almost $50,000 each month on food, diapers and transportation.  

These expenses were among the most significant monthly costs and when routine therapy services, medication and special education are added, the costs skyrocket to upwards of $220,000 monthly.  

Acting UNICEF Representative in Jamaica Vicente Teran said the extremely high costs are cause for concern especially for children with disabilities from the most disadvantaged households. This is exacerbated by the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the poorest families.

The complete report on the socio-economic effects of disability on children and their access to social safety nets will be released during Disability Awareness Week 2022, being observed from December 3 to 9.