Welfare department’s unkindest cut
The galloping in of the year of the horse over the last weekend may have brought in good energy, strength and renewed hope for many.
However for Malaysians with disabilities, the lunar occasion proved to be not only a rather rough and bumpy ride, but also a nasty one.
A number of them looking forward to celebrate Chinese New Year with their families had a shock of their lives when they discovered their money missing when they visited the bank.
“A wheelchair-user friend cried over the telephone with me that her monthly workers’ allowance of RM300 from the Welfare Department had been abruptly stopped for over two months by the government,” said Law King Kiew, a disabled activist from Kepong in Selangor.
“This was the unkindest cut that anyone could mete out on the disabled. The same thing also happened to the Indian disabled community during Deepavali last year,” Law, 53, added.
(Employees with disabilities who are salaried RM1,200 and below, qualify for a monthly allowance of RM300 from the Welfare Department. Recently the welfare came up with a new policy that all monthly allowance applicants require to update their details annually in order to continue with their privilege.)
“The problem with the new requirement is that current recipients of welfare aid are subjected to go through all the red tape and difficulties every year as if they are fresh applicants,” Law explained.
She went on to point out that the problem is most wheelchair users have no transport of their own. They also have no access to public transport. Even if they are able to somehow get there, many of the welfare offices are situated upstairs with no lifts or bathroom facilities that are friendly for wheelchairs.
Here are true incidents of what transpired to disabled persons over their monthly allowance cuts:
- One man in a wheelchair went to Bank Simpanan Nasional to withdraw his allowance only to find out that the money was not credited into his account. He had to get his son to take time off from his work in order to take him to the bank. The bank was not wheelchair accessible.
- An elderly woman wheelchair-user went to the welfare office in the Grand Season’s Avenue. The lady at the counter gave her the disappointing news and asked her to go home and wait for further instructions from them.
- An elderly gentleman who called the welfare department to ask why his allowance was not in was informed by an officer that he was supposed to be an owner of two cars which was not true. She also informed him that they had already sent a letter to him a couple of months earlier informing him of the cut. But he didn’t receive any notice. When he checked with them on the address, it was his old address and not his new one which he had already updated with the welfare department more than a year ago.
- Some disabled persons after finding out about the new forms expressed their deep disappointment that they were not able to claim their monies for the months that they had missed, pointing out that the money is vital to their survival.
“So what do you expect wheelchair users to do? The taxi fare itself to the welfare department would cost a bomb and eat into the allowance amount. And imagine going through this rigmarole each and every year?!” fumed Law.
Law who has been disabled since the age of 19 insists that the onus of responsibility should be on the welfare officers to visit the home of each disabled applicant in their vicinity to update their forms on the individual.
“Even though visiting the home of the disabled is a policy of the welfare, some of the officers are just too lazy to do it – and their superiors seem to take their responsibilities lightly.
“It is unconscionable that the handicapped are expected to go through all the trouble and running around whilst welfare officers who are not disabled shake their legs in comfort in their air conditioned offices.”
Law said the welfare needs to train all of its staff to speak with respect and kindness.
“After all, the reason why the welfare have jobs and are being paid for it is to help the disabled and they should never forget this.”
“They need to listen more, be patient – not arrogant – and explain details clearly and with a smile. Appointments to meet with the handicapped should be made well in advance and not at the last minute with notices duly delivered. And what better way to find out more about your disabled clients than in making personal visits to their homes to see how they are coping with their lives?”
This writer concurs.
When I rang up the welfare office in Subang Jaya a couple of months ago to enquire about the allowance, I was rudely told off by the staff that I had to personally come into the office with a load of particulars to get it done.
When I asked the officer to come to my house instead, she told me flat outright that they have no procedure to do such a thing. When I insisted, explaining that I had no one to help me get to her office, she let out a cynical laugh and retorted, “I will have to check with my boss about it.”
She gave me no idea of when she will get back to me. It was clear that her response was only meant to be rhetorical.
It is most shocking to note that after Malaysia’s signing – and ratifying – of historical documents such as the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – and the myriads of conferences being held on the disabled each year that seem to only give the able-bodied a “feel good factor” after it is over and leave the disabled with nothing, we still have to put up with frontline staff like this every day.
And of course, many want to know also as to what the newly installed disabled senator is doing about this issue that affects all disabled employees throughout the nation?
This would be a great opportunity and challenge to seize it to make things right for the most disadvantaged citizens of our country.
Anthony SB Thanasayan, a former councillor, is wheelchair bound and an animal activist.
Today I was approached by 90 OKU asking me to write to the Government, Sultan, Welfare Department and MPs regarding the loss of allowance due to them.
Every single one of them have gone for interview yet they were told yesterday and today that there is no record to show it. So now they will have to go again.
It is a good move that these OKU have to go for yearly interview to update their status - that is whether they are still alive or dead. But to cheat them is outright sickening. The OKU did not ask Allah to be one. Most of them were born or were disabled because of sickness or accident. Year in year out this happens. And most times it is the non-Malays that suffers the most. For the past five years every festival the same situation crops up. Malays do not because even if no money is given from welfare they can go to their MPs who are filthy rich.
Johari the MP for Titiwangsa gives out money every Friday at his center. Sorry folks the money is only for the Malays. You and I do not qualify.
Shahrizat is not a beggar or OKU but she gets RM250 million to spend and spend.
Rosmah is not a beggar or OKU but she gets RM1.2 million daily to spend and spend.
Sultan of Selangor is not a beggar or OKU but he gets to take (sapu) all the Zakat money.
Any Melayu to provide good logical explanation regarding the stealing?