Improving Support for the Vulnerable: A must or just a mere generosity?

The need for a comprehensive discussion about support and assistance for vulnerable persons in society has never been so imperative than this time. A Global as well as a Community approach is required now more than ever, not only to discuss, but also to find best support practices because whether it is Persons with Disabilities or the Aged, inequality begins where there is exclusion. All over the world, Governments have given more attention to building machines than “building” the humans that make them. Even in highly industrialized Nations, where good welfare systems exist, a relatively low attention is giving to providing support to vulnerable people. Singapore might not be a welfare state as understood in most countries of the west but with a significantly strong economy. In the earliest part of its development, Singapore is said to have deemed the cost of elevators to be too expensive, and Mass Rail Transit (MRT) was not made wheelchair accessible.

Source: UN Disability Report 2018. (WG indicates survey from the Washington Group short set of questions.

It has been argued that the State is only being too generous when it spends resources on the welfare of its citizenry. But is this really the case? Is the State being simply generous or more responsible when it spends on the welfare of its citizenry? According to the United Nations world report on disability (2018), developing countries spent only between 1% to 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on providing social safety net programs and just about twice the same figures in highly industrialized nations. More Persons with Disabilities sought for welfare services in most developing nations but could not get.

A graphical representaion of the percentage of persons with disabilities who needed but did not receive welfare services, in 9 countries, around 2012. (Source: UN Disability Report 2018)

Insufficient and lack of effective financial support for the aged and persons with disabilities is a big threat to sustainable growth in every country. This is huge lesson that the COVID-19 debacle taught us. In India, in 2005-2006, spending on welfare through the Ministry of Social Justice and Welfare amounted only to 0.05% of the Ministry’s allocations, the UN world report indicates.

Most vulnerable persons have in their lives predominantly depended on informal or domestic assistance for living. Wheelchair users tend to use the assistance of family members to move around, whereas most financial supports come from member of the family and friends. This is very common both in developed and developing nations. About 75% of Persons with Disabilities in the United States depend solely on family supports. In Ghana, Nigeria and most African nations, sub the Sahara, it is very common to see children between the ages of 14-16 years holding the hands of persons with seeing disabilities around or pushing persons in wheelchairs. Most of these children have had to give up their education to support the vulnerable.

It is very imperative for the way forward to improve social security, safety net programs and welfare services for the Aged and Persons with Disabilities at the formal level. Governments have to now, as a matter of urgency, either choose between increasing the financing for formal as well as informal support for the Aged and Persons with Disabilities or sacrifice their health systems; for the next pandemic might see probably a higher devastation of the health care system. The German governments Pflegebonus (Care bonus) needs to be mentioned as a good example in this sense. The Pflegebonus seeks to distribute among workers of the branch an increment ranging from €900 to €1,500.

2020 has thrown more light on where we have not done enough. We need to do more and the time is ripe for a better design of social safety net programs.

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