x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Kuwait's disabled can apply for state grants

More than 3,000 Kuwaitis apply for grants of up to 10,000 Kuwaiti dinars (Dh131,400) as the government applies a law aimed at improving living conditions for the disabled.

KUWAIT CITY // More than 3,000 Kuwaitis yesterday applied for grants of up to 10,000 Kuwaiti dinars (Dh131,400) as the government applies a law aimed at improving living conditions for the disabled.

The applicants swarmed the Public Authority for the Disabled (PAD) from the early morning to apply for the grant that was authorized in a new law this year. It stipulated that those with a mild disability should receive 5,000 dinars and those with a severe disability should receive twice that amount.

Kuwaiti law defines a person with a special need as one who suffers from a permanent disability, whether total or partial, which impairs their physical, mental or sensual ability to ensure the basic necessities of life. Officials said disabilities in the severest category include blindness, multiple sclerosis and severe mental retardation.

"I have a daughter. She has a problem with her brain. She can't walk or eat without help, though she can hear and see," said Jasim al Qanaee, the father of Khloode, a severely disabled 15-year-old who has spent the last 14 years in special accommodation for the handicapped.

"With this grant, I can buy her some stuff for the house and keep some money for her future - who knows what is going to happen," Mr al Qanaee said while submitting his daughter's application.

An official at the PAD, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorised to speak on behalf of the organisation, said there are at least 35,000 disabled people in Kuwait and more than 3,000 people had applied on the first day.

A committee will review the applications and related medical files to determine who will receive the smaller and larger grants, the official said. He said the law will improve health care, education and employment rights for those with special needs and help them "blend in with the community".

The law requires private companies with more than 50 employees to recruit four per cent of their workforce from vocationally rehabilitated people with special needs.

Fahad al Ofaisan, 37, a civil engineer who was left with a partially disabled hand, back and leg after being vaccinated against a disease before his first birthday, said he will use the grant for a lift to access his new villa more easily.

"A lot of places are not suited for the disabled in Kuwait - shopping centres, you name it," Mr al Ofaisan said. "This money is really going to help us, for sure."

The new law updates legislation from 1996. In addition to the generous benefits such as virtually free land for a house, health care and a guaranteed job that all Kuwaitis receive from the state, disabled citizens get better housing loans, money for private education and now the grant. Some believe the rewards are so good that some citizens are registering themselves as disabled to take advantage of them.

The director of the PAD, Jassem al Tammar, estimated that the number of people registered as disabled has grown from 5,000 to 40,000 in five years and said the growth needed to be reviewed.

Mr al Ofaisan suggested that many of those registered as disabled do not deserve a grant when he said about 10 per cent of those registered as disabled have problems as severe as "an amputated finger".

"Most people are here for nothing," Mr al Qanaee said. "They are planning to give money to all the disabled, so some people who are not disabled are just coming here to see if they can get it."

"I don't think 35,000 have severe problems in Kuwait," he said.

jcalderwood@thenational.ae