The Minister for Sport, Steven Linares, accompanied by Michelle Turner who runs the GSLA Summer Sports programme, last week showed Minister for Health Neil Costa around the different facilities on offer this summer for children.
With the Stay and Play programme integrating with the normal training programme the Ministers were able to see at first hand how the sports programme was allowing for integration of all children of different abilities to participate together.
The inclusion policies followed by the sports programme saw children with special needs and differing care needs integrate in different games with other children. At the same time the Stay and Play facilities offered more specialised care needs providing a wide range of opportunities for all children to participate.
This was the first time that Minister for Health Neil Costa had to see at first hand how the recent decision to assist the sports programme with carers from the Care Agency was now working.
Accompanied by the Care Agency Chief Executive, the minister had a chance to speak to organisers, volunteers and children alike as he was shown around the programme.
Among those he met was a young lady who was introduced as “Joelle”, leader of the Stay and Play programme. The ministers were surprised to hear that the young lady was working all hours of the day to the point that she had even sent out emails at “3am” to GSLA officials. Something which did not go without significant praise from the Ministers.
Mr Costa admitted later that “working sixteen hours in his office at times he did not have much of an opportunity to see at first hand how such programmes worked.”
“I am actually really, really, really impressed with everything that I’m seeing,” he commented as he completed his tour.
The visit had allowed both ministers, and officials accompanying them to discuss various ideas to improve the co-operation and services which could be offered in the future.
At one stage the discussions even included on ideas on how to extend the physical facilities as well as how to extend the programme beyond the summer sports programme.
Speaking after the visit Minister for Sports Steven Linares expressed his satisfaction at how the visit and chance to speak to his fellow ministerial colleague whilst at the actual sports programme. “It’s brilliant because of the success of this programme. It’s so successful, we didn’t physically have enough people to look after the stay and play children. It wasn’t a question of funds or anything like that. It was a question of where do we get the people from and so we quickly thought well the Care Agency deals with some of the these children and they can help out by sending some of their carers to come in and help us out. And that is exactly what’s happened. And when I told the Minister Costa about it he quickly switched on and look at how we are doing now.”
“We are talking ideas of the future. Every time I come here they ask for more things. It’s all to do with funding and how we can manage it. But look if we have at heart that we want to help and we want to do it we always get there.”
“The idea of the GSLA and Care Agency to join forces and to push through the idea of integration and play and making the possibility, the idea of people of any disability to be able to participate in the way that anyone else can participate, and breaking down those barriers as we have seen today, is really one of the reasons why you want to be in public office and join public life, because it really makes you happy to actually see how policies that you make in your office, with your officials, you actually see it really makes a difference,” Mr Costa said.
“I think that one of the good things that the GSLA and Care Agency have done is to work more closely. I think the best example so far has been the child protection committee where it was restructured and you have the Care Agency Chief Executive as the Chair of that Committee and you have got the GSLA.”
“They have been excellent at safeguarding children and safeguarding vulnerable people and of course, in sports, its extremely important to have safeguarding structures so that we can know our children are enjoying all these sports and other facilities.”
“Without worry and that they are not going to be subjected to any harm or any danger. So that was the very first thing that we did because it really needed to be done properly together and this is just wonderful.”
“I was talking today with one of the carers who spends at least six or seven weeks every year in India and he takes care of young children with disabilities who live literally on the streets. There is no structured care, they do not have care for people who live with disability in the way that we do. I am always very moved when he comes back and tells me about his testimony and what he sees.”
“Obviously what we have here is something to be really, really happy about. The more that we work together, the more that we realise there is even more things that we can do.”
“Today for example, we spoke about a three day gap from when the stay and play ends until school starts and we thought that it was important that in those few days the children who live with disabilities have a place where they can come to before school starts. It’s important for the parents to have some time to rest and work. So really I am really impressed from what I have seen today.”