‘Family and Person-Centred Services for Children and Young People with Disability’ was the theme of the second annual conference held by Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) in Malta on April 28.
This year’s conference, which was attended by over 120 participants, focused on the needs of children and youngsters living with a disability and the needs of their families, who also require physical, educational and psychological support.
In this regard, RMHC partnered with two of Malta’s main stakeholders: the Department of Disability Studies within the University of Malta’s Faculty for Social Well-being, which spearheads research and trains professionals in the local sector, and Aġenzija Sapport, the national agency responsible for providing professional services to persons with disabilities.
The conference included two panel discussions during which participants were able to put forward their questions.
The first discussion focused on the challenges and opportunities of implementing inclusive services, with panel members sharing their professional insight and experience.
The panel was composed of Georgette Bajada, head of Department in Inclusive Education at the Secretariat for Catholic Education in Malta; Nathalie Buhagiar, lecturer at the Faculty of Health Sciences within the University of Malta; Valentina Caruana, leader children’s social work services at Aġenzija Sapport; and Tonio Axisa, executive director, RMHC Malta.
The second discussion was about the lived experience of the holistic family-centred approach from the point of view of persons with a disability and their close relatives, who formed part of the panel.
Neville Cassar Bonavia, whose elder son, Alex, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at the age of two-and-a-half, commented that parents of children with a disability appreciate being given the space “to raise awareness on the challenges they face and to contribute to the better orientation of services to their needs”.
During his speech, RMHC Malta chairman Martin Xuereb explained that the core mission of the RMHC Malta chapter and worldwide is to promote and help improve family-centred care, an approach to healthcare and well-being, where the entire family is fully involved and supported in the provision of care and services to their child.
He said that RMHC offers a platform and hub for NGOs that share its mission by putting the Ronald McDonald Learning Centre at their disposal.
The Malta chapter of the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) is part of a global network that hosts programmes and services to children, young adults and their families in more than 60 countries. RMHC has enjoyed the support of McDonald’s owners, operators, suppliers, employees and customers around the world since 1974. The Malta chapter’s lead benefactor is Premier Restaurants Malta which operates nine McDonald’s restaurants across the Maltese islands.