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Relief schemes for disabled underutilised

By Sahana Charan

BANGALORE, DEC. 16. For parents of severely disabled persons, a primary concern is the fate of their children.

The National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities was formed by the Union Government to address such issues. But the relief schemes available under the trust are not widely utilised in the State owing to lack of awareness.

Moreover, those who have tried to avail of the schemes have met with hurdles.

The trust was constituted under the National Trust Act, which came into force in January 2000, to provide relief and care to persons with these disabilities.

While other legislation concerning people with disabilities highlight the rights and equal opportunities (to them), the National Trust Act focuses on care-giving and protection of these vulnerable groups and provides for long-term rehabilitation.

One of the provisions under the Act is the appointment of guardians to care for persons with disabilities and for dealing with property matters. The National Trust was worried about the fate of the severely disabled persons after the death of the parents, as they need constant and life-long care.

According to a senior government official, people who wanted to avail of the schemes were not able to do so because the Act had many loopholes. "There are local level committees in every district headed by the Deputy Commissioner which appoints the guardians. But most of the committees have not even met for several months," he said.

The committee consists of three persons, including the Deputy Commissioner, a person with disabilities and a representative of a voluntary organisation who look into the applications, screen the person and monitor their progress.

"It is not possible for the Deputy Commissioner to look into this matter as he has other priorities. Moreover, the committee members have to regularly go and check whether the guardian is looking after the disabled person and even look into the expenditure statements, in the case of financial guardianship. So there is a delay in issuing the guardianship certificates," the official said. Other schemes under the Act include the ``Reach and Relief'' scheme to aid setting up of short stay homes and residential institutes for orphan and destitute disabled persons, through non-governmental organisations or parents' associations. The trust gives grant-in-aid for such institutions. Another scheme of the trust facilitates training of caregivers.

Some of the parents of severely disabled persons, including autistic children, feel that awareness about the trust is low, therefore not many people are availing themselves of the schemes. However, the District Disability Welfare Officer for Bangalore (Urban) said 150 applications for guardianship had been approved so far.

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