x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Survey points way for social services

Survey found that satisfaction with current services offered in Dubai was low.

DUBAI // The Government will improve services for the disabled and the elderly after a survey found only a minority of people were satisfied with them.

The survey asked Dubai residents who use private or government social services about their needs and preferences.

One third said they were satisfied with services for people with disabilities, such as programmes to have them included in mainstream schools or workplaces.

About 30 per cent said they were satisfied with services for the elderly.

"Definitely we will look at the areas that need more attention, that have low indicators, and use those to enhance programmes," said Khaled Al Kamda, director general of the Dubai Community Development Authority (CDA).

The CDA developed the survey with the Dubai Statistics Centre. Almost 20,000 Dubai residents, Emirati and expatriate, were surveyed between March and May last year. The results were announced yesterday.

"The main purpose of conducting the study is to have a clear position of where we stand in terms of all the services given to the community," said Mr Al Kamda.

The CDA has already used the results to influence policy.

Staff were surprised to find that Emiratis were not interested in institutional facilities for the elderly, Mr Al Kamda said.

More than a third of the Emirati families surveyed said they wanted home care, while 32 per cent wanted clubs for the elderly, compared with 10 per cent who wanted institutions.

"We were really under the impression that building homecare centres for the elderly was the way to go," Mr Al Kamda said. "But we found out that serving the elderly at home is what people prefer."

A CDA initiative, Waleef, pairs young volunteers with elderly people. Staff will focus on increasing the programme's capacity, Mr Al Kamda said.

Rima Sabban, an assistant professor of sociology at Zayed University, said: "I think the issue of elderly care in the family is going to be a very serious social issue in the coming years, because Emirati society is starting to grow older, and those who really built the society … really need quality care."

Ms Sabban praised the CDA for asking residents what they needed.

"This is a good approach - bottom-up, versus most of the approaches that we see locally," she said.

The survey was conducted face to face in residents' homes, said Dr Tarik Ibrahim, director of the CDA research department. The issues raised by the results will need further research, he said.

The CDA will conduct the same survey in two years and compare the results.

"Hopefully in the coming two years we will be able to gauge our improvement," Mr Al Kamda said.

By far most people surveyed said they felt safe and protected in Dubai. On a scale from 0 to 10, they rated their happiness as 7.9 on average, with Emiratis slightly happier than expatriates.

Services to include people with disabilities are important, Mr Al Kamda said.

Nada Al Bustani, 41, who uses a wheelchair because of a congenital bone disorder, said some companies wanted to hire someone with a disability but did not understand the modifications they needed to make to their building or culture.

The reason for hiring is important, said Ms Al Bustani, from Dubai.

"Is it because I want a charity case, or we have this corporate social responsibility?" she asked. "Or do I see a capable person I want to employ in this position?"

In schools, a disabled child's experience depends not only on educators but also on other students and parents, Ms Al Bustani said.

"Let's be honest - awareness is an issue that has not been addressed 100 per cent," she said.