We welcome the budget and the report on what has been achieved so far, noting the challenges encountered due to controllable and uncontrollable circumstances.
We appreciated government’s commitment towards supporting the civil society. We also applaud government on the disability and old-age grant increment because it is through this kind of leverage that the most disadvantaged citizens thrive. Our position on the budget vote stems out of the ideals that: an equitable economic environment needs to be created wherein blind and partially sighted people can productively participate in the country’s economic growth and to achieve what they dare to dream; livability and affordability for blind and partially sighted persons is needs to be equated to that of their fully sighted counterparts; and that prevention of avoidable blindness needs to be given high priority towards building a healthier and more able society.
We look forward to seeing a portion of the funds budgeted for Small, medium and micro enterprises (SMME) be given to persons with disabilities as warranted by the equity legislation. Reports on the progress thus far in this regard has not clearly been spelled out and we can bear witness to the fact that our communities of people with disabilities (PWDs) have not fully benefitted from the allocations provided for in the legislation. Therefore, we strongly recommend that a vigorous drive be embarked upon to ensure that PWDs are capacitated and given their fair access to the funds allocated for SMMEs. We also welcome the allocation of substantial funding for bursaries, particularly to PWD’s. This is a positive move by government and we would appreciate to see sustainable decent jobs being created to further utilise the skills for which studies have been funded. This will help in making PWD’s productively participatory in the country’s economy other than increasing the statistics on social grant dependency.
For visually impaired persons and PWDs in general life is much unaffordable because of very exorbitant assistive devices and costs of human assistants. Because of this, an enormous disparity in the cost of living between PWDs and their able body counterparts is perpetuated. To curb this imbalance we strongly recommend a serious consideration on the substantial tax relief for persons with disabilities in terms of income tax and value added tax as well as on levies charged on imported assistive devices. We further recommend that subsidies be availed for essential house-hold services to house-holds headed by persons with disabilities.
We support the allocation of funds to health care services and the National Health Insurance (NHI). We strongly recommend that particular funding be allocated towards finding ways of early detection of blindness and avoidable blindness as well as other avoidable disabilities. We also recommend that the Department of Health allocate enough funding to proceed with the establishment of the permanent eye-care centres countrywide to increase access to eye-health services and to reduce funds spent on these services with the current approaches.
For more information contact:
Programme Manager: Fundraising and Public Relations
For more about the South African National Council for the Blind, refer to www.sancb.org.za