China / Society

Program for the disabled commended

(China Daily) Updated: 2014-02-07 07:47

A care home that integrates people with learning difficulties into communities has won widespread acclaim.

The initiative by the Huiling Home for Persons with Mental Disabilities breaks new ground, but more understanding and support is required, specialists said.

Founded in February 1990 in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, Huiling has set up 13 branches across the nation, including in Changsha, Beijing, Xi'an, Hangzhou and other major cities.

It provides daycare services, family care and supported employment for more than 400 people.

"The traditional management mode is to confine patients inside a building and isolate them from the outside world, but we aim to integrate them into society through community service", said Zhao Songtian, the public affairs officer of Hangzhou Huiling care center.

"Outsiders are welcome to participate in our activities, and we go out and take part in different social activities."

People receiving care service at the center are taught skills, such as painting, handicrafts and gardening, and are encouraged to take part in singing and dancing classes.

Those suffering from learning disabilities live in communities where they make a valued contribution. The organization rents houses in residential areas and each "family" has three to four staff members and a teacher.

"We want to connect them even more with society and give them work opportunities," Zhao said.

Ping Ping trained to work as a waiter in a restaurant in Hangzhou. Zhao said Ping Ping adapted well and learned quickly what the job entails.

"Our students learn how to communicate with other people," Zhao said, adding that he hoped people would be more understanding of those with differences.

There are about 10 million people in China with learning difficulties, according to the China Association of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities and Their Relatives.

Zhou Haibin, a program officer at the International Labor Organization, said, "According to the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, those with disabilities are encouraged to integrate into society."

Zhang Baolin, president of the China Association of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities and Their Relatives, said protecting the rights of the vulnerable needs the joint efforts of government, social organizations and the public.

Using a similar model, a "sunshine home" plan was launched by the China Disabled Persons Federation and the Ministry of Finance to provide foster care in 2009. From 2009 to 2011, the central government provided 600 million yuan ($989,800) for the program.

"The service organizations funded under the plan need social support and social integration," said Song Song, a researcher at the Enable Disability Studies Institute.

He suggested the government should consider purchasing specialized services from professional social workers.

Wang Chunxia, program officer at Able Development Institute, said, "The Huiling model emphasizes de-institutionalization and advocates equality and respect."

With community service, the authorities and professionals should set up a standardized procedure to regulate the organizations that provide care, including support facilities, Wang said.

Names of those with learning difficulties in this story have been changed on request.

Hot Topics