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Goffe: Data on children with disabilities critical to improving lives

Published:Wednesday | March 23, 2022 | 12:06 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer

Gloria Goffe has welcomed news that the multiple indicator cluster survey to be conducted this year will for the first time also provide critical data on children with disabilities, saying it is long overdue.

The UNICEF survey, to be conducted between April and June, will target 8,000 households islandwide. Three previous such surveys were done in 2000, 2005 and 2011.

“The 2022 multiple indicator cluster survey (MICS) to be undertaken in Jamaica is unique in that it is the only survey that provides critical data on child protection and early childhood education,” Mariko Kagoshima, UNICEF representative to Jamaica, told Monday’s ceremony to kick-start the training of 80 field workers.

“This includes information on functional learning among children ages seven to 14, which will be critical as Jamaica seeks to recover from the learning loss caused by the impact of COVID-19. For the first time, MICS will also provide critical data on children with disabilities,” she said.


Goffe, who is the executive director of the Combined Disabilities Association (CDA), was ecstatic about the news.

“Any data on anything to do with disabilities is critical because we don’t have enough data. We rely heavily on the average scores given by the World Health Organization, Pan American Health Organization and the World Bank,” she told The Gleaner.

“If they say 15 to 20 per cent, then we will take the 15. If they say 10 to 15 per cent, then we might take the 10 or 12. So for us, it is welcome, and it is something that needs to be done urgently,” Goffe said.

The Disabilities Act 2014 only came into effect last month, more than seven years after it was passed, due to a delay in passing the accompanying regulations.

“We talk all the time about the need for data on disability to properly guide the Government and even NGOs (non-governmental organisation) and international organisations here in Jamaica as to the needs and the capabilities of persons with disabilities. So I’m hopeful that the data from this survey will prove helpful in structuring the programmes or in designing programmes, designing infrastructure, designing almost everything in terms of persons with disabilities,” she said.

Goffe, who is blind, said that while things were difficult for all persons with disabilities, those with intellectual challenges suffer much more because their situation is often misunderstood, exposing them to ridicule.


She added that people with intellectual disabilities also end up suffering if persons believe they cannot articulate themselves properly, including in cases where crimes have been committed against them. The other person, she pointed out, might find it easier to explain what happened and to lie about it, while the disabled person could be intimidated or be confused about expressing their issues.

According to Goffe, identifying persons with intellectual disabilities at an early age is vital, but expressed concern that the necessary early childhood intervention is also not provided, further putting them at a disadvantage. This setback then leads to another set of challenges in getting high-paying meaningful jobs and most find themselves condemned to menial jobs for their entire lives.

“They sometimes are given some tasks to perform with very little pay, so they cannot contribute to National Housing Trust, a pension plan or the National Insurance Scheme, so in their old age, sometimes they have nothing to lean on,” she said. “I think that for them, it is really critical and we have agencies which look out for them, but we need to have, I think, more sensitisation on the issue of intellectual disabilities.”