Review: New $8 million disability center needed

Growing need for services in the Cayman Islands

A new centrally located learning center is needed for the growing number of adults with disabilities in the Cayman Islands, but budget constraints mean the $8 million facility is not part of government’s immediate plans. 

A “needs assessment” review found that the Sunrise Adult Training Centre could soon be required to cater for more than 100 adults – double its current intake. 

There is already said to be a long waiting list for the current facility, which provides training and support to help people with disabilities maintain their independence. 

Concern has also been expressed that adults in outlying districts can’t access the center, currently located in West Bay, because transport is only available as far east as Northward. 

Design plans have already been drawn up for a new more centrally located facility to meet the growing need. 

“What we have completed is a needs assessment, schedule of alterations and design plan in term of room allocations and programming – it is dependent on financing,” said Shari Smith, director of the facility. 

She said expanding the operations would also result in additional funding requirements, including for new instructors. She estimated the cost would rise from the $1.35 million allocated in the current budget to around $3 million. 

Consultants Deloitte analyzed the country’s disability provision in 2010 as part of the research into the possibility of building a new center. At the time, funding was not available to implement the recommendations and the report was not released. 

Its findings were discussed during Finance Committee hearings last week, when Education and Training Minister Tara Rivers said the situation remained largely the same today with funding the main barrier to getting the job done. 

Ms. Smith said the Sunrise Centre currently caters to 50 adults and provides services to a further 18 in the community. She said there were 25 people on a “growing wait list.” 

Estimates of the likely future needs of Cayman in terms of disability provision for adults are believed to be reasonably accurate as they are based largely on the current intake at the Lighthouse School, which is for children with disabilities. 

Ms. Smith added, “Most clients do come from the Lighthouse School. We are also seeing an increase in referrals from the community – the numbers are growing as the word is out in terms of what we do at the center.” 

She said the Deloitte report had indicated the Sunrise Centre, which is the only learning facility for adults with disabilities in Cayman, would soon have to cater to more than 100 individuals. 

Ms. Smith acknowledged that there were clients in East End and North Side who currently missed out because transporting them to West Bay was an issue. 

“The mandate is to be able to provide services to all adults …. We hope to relocate in a more central area of the country …. 

“We are ready to move as soon as we have the funding,” she added. 

Mary Rodrigues, chief officer in the Ministry of Education and Training, said the report by Deloitte had, up to now, been used for internal information as finances were not yet available to move it forward. 

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