QUALIFYING persons with disabilities will soon begin receiving a monthly disability grant from government.
Social Development Minister, Matebatso Doti, said this follows the enactment of the Persons with Disabilities Equity Act in March 2021. The Act provides for an array of legal rights for persons with disabilities including rights of access to services including health and the provision of quality education.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times this week, Ms Doti said beginning September, persons with disabilities will start receiving grants to help cushion them against the economic challenges currently being experienced in the country.
She said the grants will initially be disbursed as a pilot project in five districts before being extended to the rest of the country.
She said the qualifying criteria would be drawn up in collaboration with the Ministry of Health to ensure that only deserving people benefitted from the grants. She said it was still too early to say how much each person would get.
“My ministry is pleased that the Disability Equity Act which we championed for a long time was finally passed this year,” Ms Doti said.
“People with disabilities had been sidelined for the longest time as there was no law to protect their rights.
“We have also secured funds and starting this September, persons with disabilities will receive disability grants. We can’t say at the moment how much each person will receive as we are still working that out.
“The grant will first be administered as pilot project in five districts, namely, Thaba-Tseka, Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing, Leribe and Butha-Buthe.”
In addition to the disability grants, Ms Doti said the passing of the Disability Equity Act had enabled them to begin mainstreaming disability issues into government programmes.
She said they were actively engaging various government ministries to ensure they fully catered for the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities in all their programmes.
“With regards to the Ministry of Education and Training, we are pushing them to ensure that sign language and braille are incorporated into the curriculum to ensure that the deaf and the visually impaired can learn without any challenges.
“We also want to ensure that school facilities and construction projects undertaken by the Ministry of Public Works are specifically designed to cater for the needs of persons with disabilities. This means there must be ramps to ensure buildings are easily accessible to people with disabilities.
“We are also liaising with the Ministry of Public Service to ensure there is no discrimination against persons with disabilities when it comes to employment opportunities. They should also be considered as they are just as capable as anyone else. The Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation should cater for people with disabilities in all their sporting activities,” Ms Doti said.
The minister also revealed that they will soon be taking over the administration of the old age pension funds from the Ministry of Finance. She said this would enable the pensioners to access their funds with less challenges. She said they would also be introducing counselling and other programmes aimed at ensuring holistic health care for senior citizens.
She said where possible the pension payments would be sent to senior citizens via online platforms such as the mobile money platforms, M-Pesa and EcoCash, to stop the beneficiaries from queuing up as this exposed them to the risk of contracting Covid-19.
The M-Pesa and EcoCash mobile money platforms are operated by telecommunications giants, Vodacom Lesotho and Econet Telecom Lesotho.