The following is a list we compiled with your questions (Autism Parents) about the new disability grant. You can also read APATT’s report about the meeting.
- Will past diagnosis and forms filled in by Dr. Dick from Mt. Hope still be honored since autism does not change? Or is it the Ministry’s plan to have their own doctors in charge of assessing and diagnosing children? If this is the case, how will the procedure be like giving the fact that there are only 1 or 2 professionals in the field qualified to diagnose children in T&T? What happens with children who are ALREADY diagnosed?
A: According to the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, the grant will be payable where the assessment of a child is either severe or complete AND where the disability is permanent in nature.
The diagnosis stating such has to come from a Pediatrician or other medical practitioner in the public health sector authorized by the Chief Medical Officer for this purpose or from a Paedriatic Specialist (private sector) registered with the medical board of Trinidad & Tobago.
The Ministry has a list of doctors authorized to fill the medical forms and this list will be given to parents when they go to collect the medical forms at different venues (TTconnect service centres, health centres, Social Welfare Local Board Office, online, and Ministry of Health). They obtained the forms yesterday.
The issue of having only 3 developmental pediatricians qualified to diagnose children in the public sector was brought up by APATT. The Ministry’s response is that they will extend that to other types of doctors (regular pediatricians authorized by the chief medical officer).
- Who are these doctors and what are their qualifications?
A: There will be some specialists and regular doctors (pediatricians) making the call of whether or not a child qualifies for this grant based on the severity of his/her condition.
When we stated that regular doctors might not be qualified to diagnose children with a disability (not their specialization and the reason why they have to refer children to specialists for a diagnosis), the response from the Ministry was they will be “trained”. Furthermore, it was added that they just wanted to start the grant and they cannot wait to make it “perfect”.
- If there is no means test will parent still be asked financial information and have a social worker visit their homes to ‘assess them? If so, how can it be said there is no means test?
A: They might be asked in the form if the person applying on behalf of the child is working. According to Mr. Troy Pollonais (Director, Ag) this is to determine which individuals might have an urgent need to access the grant. He stated that he could see how this information could also be misused given the fact that this grant will not be subjected to a means test and yet there might be questions about your financial situation.
- Can parents without documentation have access to the grant? If not, what is the exact documentation required?
A: The first step will be to obtain a medical report form available at the venues we previously mentioned. Have the child examined and the medical report completed by the doctor. According to the handout we received, it says that parents also complete the application form and then submit both to the local board officer nearest you (and obtain a receipt as proof of submission). However, during the meeting today, it was stated that AFTER the medical report is received THEN an application form will be given.
- What is the age limit for the grant and who qualifies?
The age of children eligible for the DAGM ranges from birth to 18 years. However, according to another handout received it states that a child must not have attained the age of 18.
Who qualifies: A child must not have attained the age of 18; a child must be a citizen/legal resident of T&T as defined in the immigration act and a child must be residing permanently in T&T. A parent or legal guardian must be 18 years or older in order to apply.
- How long will it take for assessments/diagnosis to start after application and how long will it take to complete?
A: According to the Ministry, the transitioning process should be completed in a few months. For those applying for the grant as a new case, they stated it is difficult to ascertain the time since the process involves several factors out of the control of the Ministry.
- Is the grant automatically renewed every year without parents having to go through the entire process every year since Autism is a life-long disability?
A: Yes, once the child qualifies according to the medical report the grant will automatically be renewed every year without having to re-apply.
- If parents have more than one child with a disability and they both possesses their respective diagnosis, will each child receive the $1500 grant?
A: Yes, every child will receive a separate cheque. However, where a monthly income exceeding $1500 is paid for a similar benefit on behalf of a child, such will not be eligible for this new grant. Furthermore, if a parent is homebound due to having to take care of their disabled child/children they might also apply and qualify for Public Assistance.
- Since when do you have to meet an entire board to qualify for the grant instead of just one social worker as before?
A: According to the Ministry, there will be no board meeting to qualify for the grant.
- The special child grant caters for what type of children? Can they identify any particular need/ disability which this grant considers.
A: The medical form indicates the following: Mild, moderate, severe and complete. It is up to the doctor to determine where your child’s disability falls, keeping in mind that this grant is for children under the age of 18 who are severe to “complete” disabled.
- Is the Special Child grant still active?
A: The Special Child grant recipients will be transitioned to this new grant. However, this ONLY applies to those being CURRENT recipients. If your child has been receiving the Special Child Grant and they no longer do because you were told they cannot qualify based on your income (the new implementation of the means test), you will have to re-apply for this grant, you will not be transitioned.
- Persons who were accessing the previous grant before the change will be receiving an accumulated payment of missed months or a new payment new system?
A: If your child was receiving the Special Child Grant and it was cut because you no longer qualify based on your income, you have to re-apply. The retroactive process will not apply to you. It is important to mention that the retroactive payments are not monthly cheques or lump sum with the amount of each month you missed. The retroactive definition according to the Ministry will be cheques with the MONEY DIFFERENCE between the grant you are receiving and the new one being implemented.
- The payments will be done via cheques or direct deposit?
- How long between filing the application and getting a verdict?
A: See question #6.
- What is the length of each stage of the process?
A: See question #6.
- What is the appealing process like?
A: If you are not satisfied with what the doctor determined about your child’s disability, you can request the Chief Medical Officer to review the case through the local board.
If the issue is with the rejection of your application, you can appeal to the Senior Officer (Welfare Officer III) and if you are not satisfied you can take it to the supervisor of office. If you don’t get the response you are seeking, you can then go to the central office and appeal to the Supervisor III, then Deputy Director and finally to the Director.
It is important to mention that in order to appeal you must have something in writing stating that you have been rejected.