Raising a child with disability is not challenge, the challenge is when society is unpleasant and pejorative. Children with disabilities are more vulnerable than others as they face multiple vulnerabilities from society constantly in addition to their physical and mental problems. These children are ignored, shunned and isolated and thus they are victim of inequalities and discrimination. The children with disabilities experience not only severe discrimination and violence but also they are deprived of their fundamental rights such as – right to health, and education. Children with disability also experience exclusion from government's social services.
The right to social security for the people with disabilities is a constitutional right, as it has enshrined in the Article 15 (d) of the Bangladesh Constitution. In keeping the constitutional obligations, the cabinet has approved and launched the National Social Security Strategy (NSSS) on 2015 by the General Economics Division of the Planning Commission. Albeit, the Constitution being the supreme law of the country has further committed to ensure social justice for all, but children with disabilities are implicitly addressed in all policies.
The Government of Bangladesh is active participant of various international conventions and treaties to promote human rights and eliminate all forms of violence and discrimination. Country's lack of the capacity, centralised government mechanism, low financial resources are failing to translate those international commitment, harmonize the national legislation and policies and thus have great impact upon the life of children with disability.
Bangladesh has a wide range of social safety net programmes and some of the special programmes directly operated by the Government of Bangladesh. So far, in all different settings of social safety net programmes, little attentions have given to the children with disabilities. Yet, we can hope a little bit because in the latest budget, Ministry of Finance proposed to raise the safety net allowances for people with disabilities, along with the increment on the education stipend for the children with disabilities. In reality, the most of the needed families of children with disability are depriving utmost in receiving the government's safety net.
Current social protection scheme, such as cash transfers and stipends have been selected in a very limited scope. Additionally, at rural level many parents of children with disability are unaware of the safety net programme. These families are very poor, marginalized and illiterate. Additionally, there is rarely any information mechanism process that will support to educate these families to be educated on the resources. Appropriate measures are required, to ensure the mainstream safety net programmes are inclusive for the children with disability. On many occasions government programme design failed to address the specific needs of the children with disability such as – extra living cost, amenities cost associates with their daily life and mostly travelling cost for the physically disable children.
To address the issue more seriously and ensure the basic rights, Bangladesh has become the signatory and ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on 2007 and also drafted a law, Rights and Protection of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2013 with the aim to harmonise the law with CRPD. After being the signatory of the CRPD, Bangladesh Government has also made an effort to move from welfare based approach to an inclusive, right based approach to ensure active participation of children with disabilities all spheres.
However, yet problems are prevailing. Bangladesh's social security system is multifaceted having large number of programmes and managed by various ministries. As per the report of Ministry of finance, there are more than 100 programmes under the social security system and that financed through budget. All these programmes are run by various ministries and thus there is no easy formal mechanism in accessing the service at local level by ordinary people. Due to the increase number of the programme, social safety net budget has been affected badly. The amount of average benefit received by an individual is low, and it becomes even lesser for the children with disabilities. Along with all these financial issues there are some additional problem and that is – the complex procedure of accessing the service. Statistic has shown from the field level analysis that, in many cases families of the children with disabilities need to pay additional money to be in the part of the systems. Not only this but also, cases have shown, due to the procedural barrier often genuine family of the children with disabilities remain behind over the fake applicant.
Children with disabilities are the most vulnerable group of the society and thus these children deserve utmost attention in every policy government creates for their betterment. Better coordination, explicit detailed in policy with specific guideline will certainly mitigate the challenge.
The writer is a humanitarian worker.