Why the Budget needs to do something ‘special’ in healthcare

Despite the rising GDP and improving economy in the last few years, individuals with disabilities and their needs are not met adequately. As per the 2011 census, the disability stated was 2.21 per cent of the total population which accounts for 2.68Cr individuals with disability. After these more than decade-old figures and the revision of the RPwD Act 2016 and its implementation in 2017, there has been a rise in the number of disability-causing disorders added to the list of 7 to now make it 21.

The number of individuals with disability is also expected to rise and as per WHO, 21% of the population across various continents have some disability or the other. Aside from being an issue of rights and equality, lack of accessibility and Inclusion also reduces economic productivity.

A World Bank estimates that India loses 3-7% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product due to inaccessibility and exclusion of persons with disability. One of the research conducted at the University of Melbourne states that 17 percent of additional household income is required to support one individual with a disability in the family. There is an additional cost of living with disability and it’s important to be able to calculate that in the Indian context. Finally, to be able to plan the quantum of support required we first need the government to allocate some part of the budget to determine the exact number of individuals with disability and how many are expected to get added annually to the existing figures.

There is a need to conduct an assessment to identify the specific requirements and challenges faced by individuals with special needs across different age groups and disabilities. The Budget allocated must also focus on improving the quality of education for individuals with special needs. They may include funding for special education programs, inclusive schooling initiatives and support services such as assistive technologies and learning material. Setting aside funds for healthcare services tailored to individuals with special needs is important. This may include funding for specialized medical facilities, rehabilitation services, and access to assistive devices.
Allocation of resources for social services that may include community integration programs, counselling services, and support for families caring for individuals with special needs. Devoting funds to programs that facilitate the inclusion of individuals with special needs in the workforce. This can include vocational training, job placement services, and incentives for employers to hire individuals with disabilities. Investing in infrastructure projects that promote accessibility that may include accessible public transportation, public spaces, and buildings.Allocating a budget for resources for research and development initiatives focused on improving the understanding of disabilities and developing innovative solutions to enhance the quality of life for individuals with special needs.Allocation of funds to strengthen the legal and policy framework that protects the rights of individuals with special needs. This may involve implementing and enforcing anti-discrimination laws and policies. Investing in community engagement programs to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and foster inclusivity. These programs can include awareness campaigns, training for community members, and initiatives that promote social integration. Lastly establishing mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the impact of financial allocations. Regular assessments ensure that funds are effectively utilized and contribute to the well-being of individuals with special needs.Lastly, governments must collaborate with relevant stakeholders, including Private and corporate bodies providing early intervention services and support for individuals with disability, advocacy groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and individuals with special needs, to develop inclusive and effective financial allocation strategies. Additionally, periodic reviews and adjustments to budget allocations based on evolving needs and priorities are essential for ensuring continued progress in supporting individuals with special needs on a country level.

The author is Developmental and Behavioral Paediatrician, Director & Co-founder of Continua Kids.

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