Cyprus’ Participation in the 62nd Session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development in New York

The Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Ms. Marilena Evangelou, participated in the 62nd Session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development (UN) in New York.

The Deputy Minister emphasized, within the context of the National Statement of the Republic of Cyprus, the urgent actions and reforms that must be undertaken to achieve the implementation of the UN’s 2030 Agenda with fair, effective, and inclusive social policies.

Reference was made to the broader social protection policies of Cyprus, such as, among others, the EEE, the Minimum Wage, the General Health System, the Long-term Care Services, as well as to the modernization of services to respond to the green and digital transition.

Emphasis was placed on the recent reforms of the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare in the EEE, particularly on strengthening the Social Intervention Mechanism, which aims to activate beneficiaries by integrating them into the labor market through training programs or psychosocial support.

Emphasizing the importance of policies for reconciling family and professional life, so as to facilitate parents both in their work and in the care of their children, Ms. Evangelou presented the benefits arising from the Childcare and Education Subsidy Scheme for children up to 4 years old of the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare. Reference was also made to the parental leave allowance and the expansion of paternity leave coverage to all fathers regardless of family status.

Within the context of social inclusion of individuals with disabilities, reference was made to the “National Strategy for Disability 2018-2028.”

On the margins of the 62nd Session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development, the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare had a meeting with the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. LI Junhua, during which they exchanged views on the challenges at the international level regarding the implementation of the Social Agenda 2030 and the Social Development Goals. Ms. Evangelou informed Mr. Junhua about the social policy implemented by Cyprus, while the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs emphasized the importance of Cyprus’s participation as a member state of the European Union (EU) in the Commission’s work.

Ms. Evangelou also conducted bilateral meetings with the Minister of Labor, Welfare, and Social Protection of Portugal, Ms. Ana Mendes Godinho, the Deputy Minister of Multilateral Affairs of Costa Rica, Mr. Alejandro Solano Ortiz, and the Deputy Minister of Social Development of Jordan, Mr. Barq Al-Dmour, during which they agreed on the exchange of best practices on issues related to broader social policy.

During her stay in New York, the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare met with Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, as well as Mr. Kyriakos Papastylianou, the President of the Federation of Cypriots in America, and members of the Cypriot Diaspora, with whom they discussed the social challenges faced by the Diaspora, as well as ways for further cooperation.


Improvement of infrastructure for people with disabilities discussed by Vafeadis-Evangelou with KYSOA

In an exchange of views on improving transportation infrastructure and mobility within and outside cities for people with disabilities, Minister of Transport, Communications and Works, Alexis Vafeadis, and Deputy Minister of Social Welfare and Social Insurance, Marilena Evangelou, met on Monday with representatives of the Cyprus Confederation of Organizations of the Disabled (KYSOA) at the Ministry of Transport.

Following the meeting, Mr. Vafeadis stated that the problems faced by people with disabilities in their daily travels within cities, towns, and villages, as well as in their mobility both within and outside urban areas, were carefully listened to. “We consider today’s action as significant; it will greatly assist us in improving our infrastructure, both passive (roads and sidewalks) and active (public transportation), so that society becomes more inclusive,” he said.

He indicated that members of KYSOA should be able to actively participate in daily life and contribute as much as they can and worthy to contribute. Therefore, he added, it is an action that has started and will continue, with a two-way exchange of views and information both with KYSOA and the Ministries “so that we can take more and better measures.”

Mr. Vafeadis explained that improvements needed in infrastructure were discussed to facilitate the movement of people with disabilities with greater ease and comfort, citing the improvement of sidewalk usage as an example, noting that there should be no obstacles on sidewalks hindering people with disabilities from moving. He noted that the most important thing is access to the workplace, saying that ways to improve public transportation were also discussed.

When asked if there are timetables for implementing actions, the Minister pointed out that actions have been taken but they need to be faster. “We are here because as a Ministry of Social Welfare, there are issues that need to be addressed in cooperation with the Ministry of Transport and other Ministries,” said the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare. She explained that issues concerning people with disabilities are addressed comprehensively by the Government, and therefore, there is close cooperation to ensure the best practices and actions “and to be as close as possible to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

Ms. Evangelou noted that there is political will expressed at the highest level, from the President of the Republic, that issues concerning the rights of people with disabilities are a priority, indicating that “we are moving in that direction.” She further stated that cooperation with KYSOA is continuous, uninterrupted, and a dialogue has begun “so that we can modernize, improve, and proceed with new legislation regarding people with disabilities.”

On his part, the President of KYSOA, Christakis Nicolaides, said that the meeting results in a positive atmosphere and opens up prospects for resolving many long-standing distortions in Cyprus. “We believe that people with disabilities should be integrated into society in every way. They should be able to use public transportation smoothly, move on sidewalks, on the streets, enter buildings, and much more, without obstacles. These things certainly need to be implemented as soon as possible in our country,” said Mr. Nicolaides.

He added that “we expect, and it seems that there is understanding from both the Minister and the Deputy Minister for our issues, and we hope they will find their solutions in cooperation with us.” This is the most important, he continued, that any projects carried out should be done in cooperation with KYSOA and the disability movement. “We expect institutional dialogue regarding issues that concern us,” he concluded.

Source: Cyprus

Creates a registry of supporting documents for children with disabilities by the Ministry of Education, preparing differentiated material.

One of the most significant issues in the field of education, characterized as the most difficult and complex, is Special Education, for which the competent Ministry is in the process of implementation, in order to fulfill its promises, following the public announcements of the President of the Republic. The dialogue that took place with the involved stakeholders has provided all the necessary input to the Ministry of Education, which has concluded the changes it promotes and seeks to complete by May, in order to implement them with the new school year.

Last October, the President of the Republic came forward and announced the dialogue between the Ministry of Education and the involved stakeholders in the field of special education, with the aim of transitioning to inclusive education. The fact that this issue is a priority of the Government was also evident from the announcements of Nikos Christodoulides, last Monday, during which he emphasized that “as a result of the structured dialogue underway, the implementation of the reorganized Special Education begins in September 2024, pushing forward the long-term planning for transition to inclusive schooling.”

The Ministry of Education aims to complete all processes before September, and even before the summer, in order to take the long-awaited first step towards the major reform in the field of special education. However, it is emphasized that the dialogue has already been completed, since last December, and the opinions of the involved parties have been submitted to Athena Michailidou.

After studying the positions of all the involved parties, the Ministry of Education proceeded to the next step, which was decoding the issues raised by the stakeholders, in order to finalize the actions to be taken.

Changes in the issue of escorts

The first chapter that the Ministry of Education intends to address and achieve changes before the end of the current school year is the significant issue of escorts. An issue that has become a persistent headache and a hot potato for the Ministry, as it constantly causes problems, despite the intentions for resolution. To this end, in order to find a permanent solution, the Ministry of Education wants to proceed with a timely recording of needs, in order to plan and allocate resources before the start of the school year.

This is the big challenge, as every year the same report is made, yet every year the same problem is observed, and in the end, children stay at home for several weeks because they do not have the necessary support to attend their classes. In this case, the Ministry of Education also seeks the support of parents, in the immediate submission of applications and supporting documents, to take all necessary steps before the start of classes.

With the changes being promoted, the Ministry aims to create a registry, where supporting documents for children applying for an escort will be available, in order to avoid the constant need for submission every time parents apply. This way, the District Committees, responsible for providing escorts to children, will make decisions more quickly.

Differentiated material is coming

The second issue that the Ministry of Education wants to address immediately concerns the provision of differentiated material to children in special education who are in mainstream classes. It’s a request from parents of children with disabilities, for which the Commissioner for the Protection of the Rights of the Child has also made remarks, and despite the guidelines given by the Ministry, there have been cases where they were not followed, resulting in the exclusion of children.

The Ministry of Education has reached an agreement with Greece to evaluate its material, while material from Cyprus is also being developed, so that teachers in primary and secondary education can assist children who need this material. It is clarified that differentiated material also includes special software used by some children, and it has been decided to give special emphasis to modernization.

These two chapters are the short-term goals of the Ministry of Education, which aims to complete the processes by May and immediately after, to open the dialogue on the major issue of amending legislation.


Conference on the Ablebook App: A Collaboration with POAA Limassol

Ablebook, in collaboration with POAA Limassol (Panhellenic Organization for the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons), hosted the Ablebook App Conference on February 7, 2024, at the Pefkos City Hotel.

Attendees were briefed on the innovative digital services offered by the Ablebook App to promote accessibility and equal opportunities. We extend our sincere gratitude to the Pefkos City Hotel for their hospitality and support. The presence of the Mayor of Limassol, Mr. Nikos Nicolaides, honored the Ablebook App presentation, recognizing the importance of accessibility in every municipality and stressing the need for local authorities to contribute to this effort.

Ablebook is committed to continuing its work towards promoting accessibility and ensuring equal opportunities for all. The Ablebook App is expected to become an integral part of daily life, allowing people with disabilities and vulnerable groups to actively participate in society.

Right to work for people with disabilities – A step towards equality

Andreas Vassiliou, CEO of Ablebook, and Andreas Apostolou, Member of the EDEK party, present a significant initiative for improving the working conditions of people with disabilities. Through this proposed initiative, which will be discussed in the House of Representatives, we express our commitment to a society that respects the rights of all citizens, promotes equality, and addresses economic disparities.

According to existing legislation, if a person with disabilities is employed and receives a salary above €512, the difference is deducted from their disability allowance. This measure negatively affects the prospects of professional advancement for people with disabilities, as it hinders them from achieving full autonomy and economic independence. We strongly support the increase of the minimum threshold for the salary of people with disabilities from €512 to €1000, aligning it with the minimum wage of an employed person. This will promote their employment without restrictions and contribute to strengthening the economy with increased contributions to Social Insurance and the General Healthcare System (GeSY). We also propose the separation of the disability allowance from the European Union Support Framework (EESF), thus creating conditions for a fair distribution of resources and enhancing the employment of people with disabilities.

In this context, we invite our colleagues to support this initiative for the promotion of equality and opportunities for all citizens. Our society must be a place that treats all citizens with respect and equality, offering them the opportunity to fully contribute to society. With this initiative, we aim to promote a vibrant society where everyone has the possibility to succeed and pursue their dreams.

Thank you for your support in this critical initiative for the creation of a more equal and just society.