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CRPD concerned at union directives halting therapy for disabled children

Published 20 Aug 2020

The Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) is concerned at the latest union directives which have once again halted therapy services for children with disability. 

A number of worried parents have contacted the Commission, complaining that therapy services for their children have once been again halted. 

“While the Commission understands the workers’ need to fight for their rights, it cannot fail to call out the poor timing of these directives, following months of halted therapy due to the current health situation,” said Commissioner for the Rights of Persons with Disability Oliver Scicluna.

“Just as therapy services were about to resume after months of inactivity, the union directives have once again put a stop to these essential services, to the detriment of children with disability. Our interest is to ensure that disabled children are not disadvantaged in any way, according to the Equal Opportunities (Persons with Disability) Act and the United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with a Disability.”

The therapies were stopped following industrial directives issued by the UHM – Voice of the Workers in connection with an expired collective agreement. The directives apply to audiologists, occupational therapists, dental hygienists, dental technologists, biomedical scientists, physiotherapists, speech-language pathologists, radiographers and podiatrists. Physiotherapists at CDAU are still providing a service.   

The directives instruct the therapists to only provide emergency services. The union complained their collective agreement expired in December 2017 and the industrial dispute was registered in January, but it was suspended in March due to COVID-19. 

“These children and their families have already endured months of strain due to the current health situation. Putting a stop to their therapy services just as they were about to resume creates the possibility for regression and, at the very least, the loss of progress made painstakingly over months and years.”

This situation means that parents are being forced to pay for services privately – sometimes with the same therapists – placing more financial strain. Moreover, not all parents can afford to pay for essential services, leaving a section of children completely outside the web of therapy services. 

As the national regulator of the disability sector in Malta, CRPD urges Government to find an equitable solution for its employees while appealing to the common humanity of those involved and thanking those therapists who have been providing emergency services.