His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has announced the establishment of two laws prioritising the welfare and well-being of persons with different abilities in the country – Persons with Disabilities Order 2021 and Old Age Pensions and Disability Allowances Act.
In a recent titah during His Majesty’s 75th birthday, the monarch said that the Orders will be effective from 1 October 2021.
Persons with Disabilities Order 2021
“The Order will contain specific laws that will protect individuals with disabilities from abuse and neglect,” said the Sultan.
Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) in a statement said that the government of His Majesty the Sultan continues to ensure that these individuals are always looked after and that they are given equal opportunity as well as able to enjoy life with inclusivity in the sultanate.
The Order highlights the definition of persons with disabilities, registration of persons with disabilities and the protection of persons with disabilities for offences of abuse and neglect.
The definition of “Person with Disabilities” refers to individuals with long-term behavioural, communication, developmental, physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment whose interaction with various barriers may hinder his full and effective participation in society.
The Order which is based on Article 1 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) adds “behavioural, communication and developmental disabilities to ensure no one is left behind and that the definition persons with disabilities in this country conforms to and is relevant to current developments holistically.
Furthermore, the new law also highlights the establishment of the Registration of Persons with Disabilities, through Section 6 (Registration), where the Registrar (Director of Community Development) will keep a register of persons with different abilities, with name, address, and other details of persons with different abilities registered within.
Under Section 9 (2), an application for registration can be made by eligible persons under the Persons With Disabilities Order 2021, his family members, carers, penghulu or village head, medical practitioner who certifies the applicant as a person with a disability.
The Registrar will issue a PWD card to those registered under the register, and such card will be valid for three years or until longer period which allowed by the Registrar.
Moreover, the Order gives specific protection for these individuals through Section 4 that outlines offences against persons with different abilities carrying severe penalties.
For abuse, a person who knowingly or wilfully abuses a person with disabilities without causing grievous bodily harm to the person with disabilities is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $20,000, imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years with or without whipping not exceeding 10 strokes or both under Section 19.
Under Section 20, a person who commits aggravated abuse on a person with disabilities is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $30,000, imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 years with or without whipping not exceeding 12 strokes or both.
Meanwhile, for neglect, Under Section 21, a person having charge of a person with disabilities who wilfully or by culpable negligence neglects a person with disabilities is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $30,000, imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 years with or without whipping not exceeding 12 strokes or both.
For this purpose, “neglect” occurs when a person fails to perform acts that he knows or reasonably should know are necessary to preserve the life or health of the person with disabilities; fails to provide the care, supervision and services necessary to maintain the physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine and medical services, abandons the person with disabilities and fails to make a reasonable effort to protect a person with disabilities from abuse, neglect or exploitation by another person.
Old Age and Disability Pensions Act (Amendment) Order, 2021
His Majesty the Sultan has also approved for the provision of old-age pensions and disability allowances to Bruneian citizens or permanent residents with no national status of any other country, with the condition that they are physically present or residing in the country for the periods stipulated in the Act.
This law is also known as the Old Age Pensions and Disability Allowances Act.
Previously, the Act did not include the requirement of citizenship for recipients of old age pensions or disability allowances but only stated the period of residing in Brunei Darussalam.
The new change, said MCYS, emphasises that the receipt of old-age pensions and disability allowances will only be for citizens and permanent residents who fulfill the conditions stated.
The amendment hopes to strengthen the care of the people with different abilities and ensure the provision of allowances to those who are entitled to receive, and no one is left behind.
His Majesty in his titah also introduced the Care Provider Allowance under Regulation 8A (1) Old Age and Disability Pensions Regulations, in the amount of $250.00 per month only for recipients of disability allowances, under the guidelines of the Department of Community Development.
This replaces the Dependant Allowances that were previously provided for dependants of recipients for Blind Pensions, Mental Disorder Allowances and Hansen’s Disease Allowances in the amount of $113.00 (under 15 years) or $188.00 (above 15 years).
The amendment is intended to improve the well-being of persons with different abilities because it associates giving an allowance as an incentive and to support members of the family to care for differently-abled family members, instead of being dependent on such differently-abled family members for financial support.
This benefit is also extended to recipients of Disability Pensions, as well as Disability Allowances who were previously not entitled to apply for dependants’ allowance.
The Guidelines of the Department of Community Development states that “Care Providers” means a person who provides care and support to recipients of disability allowances, aged at least 16 years old and considered as a fit person by the Controller of Pensions.
These guidelines, said MCYS, are also meant to assess the needs of persons with different abilities to obtain a full-time Care Provider, if they are bed-ridden or unable to care for themselves independently, and will be determined based on monthly household income below the specified threshold.
Under the guidelines, a Care Provider is required to make a declaration that they accept responsibility for providing care, in which, legal action will be taken if the care provider is found to have neglected such responsibility.
Furthermore, the Order revises the criteria in assessing the eligibility for disability allowances, by eliminating the condition of being “unable to work”, and instead replacing this with certification by a medical practitioner, who will assess the functional impact of the disability, based on Guidelines to be issued by the Director-General of Medical Services.
This amendment is a significant improvement because it is aimed to empower persons with different abilities in Brunei to actively seek employment.
The terms of “unable to work” as a condition to receive disability allowances previously, was viewed as not empowering their right to be employed, at the risk of losing their right to receive a disability pension or allowance in the event they become employed.
The revision of the criteria on assessment of disabilities will also result in expanding the categories of the disabilities that may apply for allowances under the Act.
Previously, such allowances were only limited to those who were certified as blind, mentally disordered, suffering from Hansen’s Disease and fully disabled.
With this amendment, a certification by a medical practitioner based on Guidelines on Disabilities will be issued by the Ministry of Health through Regulation 8C (Guidelines to determine persons suffering from blindness etc.) Old Age and Disability Pensions Regulations.
The Order also ensures that persons with different abilities will also be entitled to continue receiving disability allowances in addition to old age pensions upon reaching the age of 60.
Previously, the Act prohibited the granting of more than one allowance (either to receive an old age pension or disability allowance).
Only recipients of blind pensions and their dependents were allowed to receive the old age pension as a supplement after reaching age 60 years old.
In order to ensure the continued welfare and well-being of persons with different abilities after reaching age 60, amendments to the Act now provides for receipt of double benefits that is old age pensions in addition to disability allowances.
To further understand the two new laws, outreach sessions will be conducted with Penghulus, Ketua Kampongs and other parties with the National Council on the Welfare of Persons with Different Abilities and associations of persons with different abilities.
This article was first published on 17n July 2021 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 150 | More stories here
THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN