Fatimah: Govt to set up council to address birth to end of life issues of special needs people

Fatimah (second right) delighted to see the beautiful artwork by a young artiste with special needs. Also seen is Sim (left).

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Sept 9: The Ministry of Women, Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development is looking at setting up a “special needs intervention council” in Sarawak to address a wide spectrum of issues including policies that would ensure the quality of life of all persons with disabilities and special needs from birth to end of life.

Its minister Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah emphasised that it is timely for Sarawak to set up such a council to be made up of relevant parties which will spearhead the council in looking into and addressing various issues that will bring inclusivity and empowerment to improve the life chances of people with special needs.

“We need to look at the whole spectrum right of the specific or targeted needs from the beginning to old age including empowerment, diagnosis, intervention, rehabilitation, education and skills training.

“Welfare is also an important aspect because we know we (parents) will not live forever and when we pass on, who will look after our children?” she said when officiating at the “Gifted Art Exhibition” at Plaza Merdeka here today.

Fatimah explained that a pro tem committee for the council will be set up to delve into the details including to determine its purpose, before it is tabled to the cabinet for approval and then start to operate in a holistic and integrated manner.

“We hope that this council can function as a body which will coordinate everything under one roof so that all individual organisations and agencies will not work in silos. When we work as a team, it will definitely be better. That is the whole idea,” she pointed out.

She also suggested bringing the Talent Development and Welfare of Special Needs (KATSN) and other relevant parties on board the council.

Fatimah (right) admiring the details in art by a young artiste with special needs.

Fatimah also revealed that the proposed RM50-million Special Needs Community Support Complex is currently still at an early stage of implementation with the Public Works Department (JKR) and Community Welfare Department (JKM).

“I know RM50 million approved by the Sarawak government is not enough and we will need more funding because the complex aims to provide a full chain of facilities for screening, diagnosis, education, vocational training, employment, talent development and residential care for people with special needs.

“We not only need to address their disabilities but more importantly their abilities and this is where talent development comes in to bring out the best in these people and children,” she added.

Meanwhile, the Gifted Art Exhibition from Aug 26 to Sept 10 showcases amazing and beautiful artworks created by 15 children with various special needs.

Organised by KATSN in collaboration with Lions Club Kuching One Earth and Kuching Divine Will Society, it celebrates the diverse abilities of the special needs population and encourages inclusion in society.

At the event, Fatimah also pledged RM20,000 for KATSN to carry out their programmes and activities.

Advisor to Lions Club Kuching One Earth Dato Sim Kiang Chiok, KATSN president Lim Mei Yek, Divine Will Society chairman Anthony Bong and Sarawak Artists Society vice president Gerald Goh were also present. — DayakDaily