Access to health and education support

Frank Hilton Organisation Occupational Therapist Shelley Kennedy, second from right, demonstrates the use of some equipment during the handing over of equipment for care of children with disability high support needs at the Frank Hilton Organisation in Suva . Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU:FILE

MORE than 90 per cent of children with disabilities in Fiji do not have access to health and education support within the first eight years of their lives.

Frank Hilton Organisation CEO Sureini Perera said this was an issue that needed to be urgently addressed.

She made the comment while addressing about 200 participants at the 6th Pacific Regional Conference on Disability in Nadi this week.

Ms Perera said based on the number and age range of children assisted by Hilton Special School, early intervention had to be given priority.

“More than 278 enquiries and referrals were received and consistent service provided to 95 children throughout the year,” she said.

“This is apart from the 150 children within our special schools and over 1000 children we have reached through outreach – this is merely outpatients.

“Out of which, children aged zero-two years was 14 per cent, children aged 3-5 was 46 per cent and children aged six-eight was 22 per cent.

“When conducting the initial interview, we found out that over 90 per cent of these children had not received any services within the first eight years of their lives — which we consider really important.

“Now if not supported in the earliest possible time in a child’s life then how do we attain mainstreaming and inclusion.”

Ms Perera’s sentiments were echoed by occupational therapist Shelley Kennedy.

“One of our other challenges is the community education awareness on the need to seek help early,” she said.

“A lot of our families aren’t aware that they can support their child differently or that some services exist.

“So we are really trying to build awareness and create more opportunities to access.”

Representatives from various disability organisations, donor agencies and stakeholders participated in the two-day conference at the Tanoa International Hotel which ended yesterday.

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