Equality Rights group GGR - Citizenship in Democracy EQUALITY RIGHTS GGR

News and Information from Gibraltar on Equality, Human, Gay and Social Rights

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

GGR: "Respite care is not a luxury!"

In a statement today, Equality Rights group GGR has made public an Open Letter to the Chief Minister (see below) expressing their concern regarding the problems surrounding the issue of respite care for families of the disabled and which these families have brought to the attention of the group.

Chairman Felix Alvarez stated that “Unless you have a severely disabled person in your family it is difficult to be aware of the level of physical and mental stress that family carers are exposed to. This is precisely the reason why respite care exists: to give carers a break from time to time in order to make it possible for them to continue with the tremendous job they do. Anyone in that situation soon realises that respite care is by no means a luxury but a way of being able to carry on. The least that Government can do is to ensure the service works as it should. Families have been complaining about the fact that they are not being properly supported and, quite frankly, the reasons given are just not good enough! If as Government appears to allege, the funding is available then adequate recruits to long-term posts should be no problem. Another thing is that the budget allocated only serves to attract part-timer posts with the consequent lack of continuity to the service that this implies!”

Alvarez further added that “What is needed is for a thorough Government review of the services available to carers in the same way that was undertaken for the GHA in general and the omission of which is a damning reflection of the manner in which disability is sidelined to minorities portfolios instead of being considered part of mainstream social affairs within Government. It is reasonable, therefore, that the call from the Disability Society for an independent review be listened to and acted upon by Government and I have urged the Chief Minister along the same lines. Additionally, Government should consider the introduction of legislation which, once and for all, will acknowledge the fact that 365 days a year family carers are providing a cheap and cost-effective service to Government and the least that Mr Caruana should do in return is to support the tremendous and caring efforts of these individuals by allowing them to depend on a system which gives them the occasional break so they can continue in their task and which would provide them with adequate provision for their services. For this, a Gibraltar Ordinance along the lines of the UK’s Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995 might provide a template to be tailored to local conditions.”


Mr. Peter Caruana, QC
Chief Minister
6 Convent Place

29th November 2005

Dear Mr. Caruana,


For several years, disabled families have been voicing their concerns regarding the problems they face in obtaining respite care. Coming as it does from the end-users of the service it is a cry from the heart which is difficult to ignore. Yet despite those “several years” in the making, the crisis appears nowhere near resolution. Family members are growing increasingly desperate for resolution of a series of issues which include (but are not limited to) the following:

Adequate levels of access to respite facilities to ease the burden of psychological and physical hardship which the daily care of disabled persons entails. Concern regarding the many issues surrounding the structure of care services, whether to do with difficulties in attracting, recruiting and retaining properly qualified carer staff or the hours of access and operating philosophy underpinning the Dr Giraldi Home.

A letter of this sort cannot possibly put on the table the many issues which are frustrating and seriously affecting these families. Yet, as Chief Minister, I am certain you will be aware of a fair number, if not all of them and that your Minister for Social Affairs will have briefed you and your Government. You will be similarly aware of the consummate economics of the situation: family carers provide a 24-hour, 7-day a week, year-in-year-out level of care which, invisibly and very cheaply, supports Government in its obligation to this community; and the least that can be done is to ensure these low-price services are supported with an adequate level of support which will continue to represent and provide the efficient and high-value-for-money to Government that it is!

As a further point, I would urge you to give serious consideration to the introduction of measures similar to the UK’s Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995, wherein a carer who provides “regular and substantial care” for a relative, partner, friend or neighbour has a legal right to their own separate assessment by social services.

Finally, your Government has engaged in a long process of consultation and analysis of the state of the Gibraltar health service. I urge you, similarly, to employ the same concern and criteria in acceding to the Disability Society’s request for an independent evaluation of the Dr Giraldi Home and services provided to the disabled community with a view to establishing the framework for a system of professional recruitment, provision of services and long-term career model which will deliver the services required to assist this sector of our community, and thus relieve the suffering and difficulties these people face day by day. If independent assessment was applicable and relevant to the overall Health Service it is incongruous to, therefore, deny review on a similar basis on this related matter.

I therefore request you to address these matters with the rigour, concern and human compassion which any decent democratic Government owes its citizens and without which any democracy is bereft of meaning.

Yours sincerely,

Felix Alvarez