It was announced in the Budget that persons with severe disabilities and unable to work will be given a pension equal to the minimum wage, and parents caring for disabled children or children with rare diseases will have their national insurance contributions covered by Government for an eight-year period. It ws also announced that in the case of cancer sufferers who exhause their sick leave entitlement, Government will make good for the rest of the required sick leave.
Government also announced the final phase of the reform in assistance for severely disabled persons who are unable to work. These persons will now receive 161.40 euro per week, this being the equivalent of the minimum wage, without having to pay social security contributions. 650 persons are expected to benefit from this measure.
Minister Scicluna announced that parents of children with serious illnesses, who cannot work because of their children’s condition, will be covered for up to eight years for their social security contributions, thus ensuring they will not lose out on their pensions upon retirement.
Another measure in this sector covers assistance for the purchase of special equipment for disabled persons, which will now be increased by 400 euro up to a maximum of 1,000 euro. It was also announced that medical criteria for the hearing-impaired or those with speech problems, have been widened, and disability assistance will now start from age 16. A helpline will also be launched for disabled persons, even for reports of abuses to be made through it.
Minister Scicluna also announced assistance for cancer patients who often exhaust their sick leave because of therapy. These persons will now be entitled to sick leave from the first day, thus ensuring they will not lose out on their full salary.
It as also announced that with effect from 1 January, persons suffering from fibromyalgia will start qualifying for sick leave after passing a means test and medical eligibility criteria. In order to avoid abuse, the medical evaluation will be handled by a multi-disciplinary board. Details will be announced in the coming weeks.
A project was also announced for engagement of professionals to train and develop workers’ skills within the Sapport Agency, particularly those working with disabled persons in the community, with the aim of reducing risks of injury or incidents in cases of difficult behaviour.
In the health sector, an investment has been announced for robotic equipment for operations involving surgical interventions in oncology, as well as an increase in regional health centres, with another centre to be opened in the north of Malta in order to improve services provied by health centres. A centre to provide primary health care is also planned for Gozo. It was also announced that renewal works will continue in Mount Carmel hospital, as well as work on a new hospital for mental health and an increase in psychiatric care within the community. The Budget also refers to an increase in new medicines, including for cardiac, circulation, cancer, dermatology and rare illnesses, as well as the extension of a programme to eliminate Hepatitis C. A national centre for persons exposed to various toxic chemicals was also announced. Services in cases of rape and victim support are also being strengthened.