The issue of welfare services in Nigeria exist with the motive of assisting the handicapped persons to help themselves. Government has the right to protect and foster the interest of the citizens by finding solutions to the social problems of the handicapped persons in the society. Handicap refers to problems a person with disability or impairment encounters in interacting with the environment; it may be caused by physical, mental or sensory factors and render a person abnormal in society. However, the World Health Organisation defines the term “handicap” as any restriction or lack of ability to perform an activity in a manner or within a range considered normal for a human being (World Health Organisation, 1996).
Cultures around the world have nearly similar perceptions or ideas of what a ‘normal’ human body is, when there is deviation from that ‘normal’ the society can react in any of the following manner; shock, embarrassment, pity and denial. Being handicapped may range from a person’s inability to walk on both feet unaided, talk, hear, to seeing without glasses which makes the impaired persons to suffer an inferiority complex as well as limitations in the degree of participation in the normal life of the community either by being partially or totally excluded (Momoh, 1997). Apparently, there is no society that exists without the handicapped or disabled persons. Their powerlessness or vulnerability stems from inability to compete or equate with other members of the society as a result of some physical impairment. However, the government and even the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have put in place some welfare services and packages in order to bridge the gap between the handicapped and non-handicapped persons in the society.
Welfare on the other hand includes all such activities as its objective and embraces not merely a section but the whole society as its field of operation. The welfare services by the government include areas like health, education, housing, transportation and social security. To fulfil these responsibilities, the government has to develop vision, mission, ethic statements and guidelines to serve as a yardstick to measure its success (Ekpe and Mamah, 1997). Thus the government has a vital role as the handicapped individuals and groups are dependent on the government for protection, care and survival. Welfare services whether in Nigeria or elsewhere is an essentiality in the society. Welfare is the general good of the whole society without any reference to a particular evil or evils, and without any distinction between high and low, and rich and poor. It is the poor and the needy, the helpless and the under-privileged, the underdeveloped and the unfortunate who require to be attended to and all welfare activities are meant to supply this attention and care so that they may attain normal average standard of life activity. Any state or government worth the name has to look to the welfare of the people, including of course the poorest and the helpless (Ade, 1986)
However, various efforts have been made to improve the life of the handicapped persons in the society. For instance in Akwa Ibom state special schools are established where they can receive both educational and vocational training. This can make the handicap persons capable of fending for themselves and contributing positively towards the growth of the society. Also, the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare (MWASW) in Akwa Ibom state provides rehabilitation centres such as co-operative industries of Nigeria, shoemaking workshop for the handicapped, Itu leprosy clinic, Arts and craft training centre, St. Joseph’s remedial training centre and St. Louis centre. All this is put in place in order to eliminate begging, starvation, delinquency, ignorance and dependency (Daily Sun Newspaper 24; 12; 2014).
According to a recent survey carried out by the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is estimated that about 10% of any given population are Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). In Nigerian terms, this translates into 14 million people out of a population of more than 140 million people (National Census figures, 2006). Thus, the WHO organise and co-ordinates programmes such as the Community-based rehabilitation (CBR) which focuses on enhancing the quality of life of handicap people and their families; meeting basic needs; and ensuring inclusion and participation. It is a multi-sectoral strategy that empowers handicap persons to access and benefit from education, employment, health and social services. CBR is implemented through the combined efforts of people who are handicapped and disabled, their families and communities, and relevant government and non-government, health, education, vocational, social and other services.
Handicap persons could be adopted by one or more groups or volunteers to their school fees, train them in any vocations, provide walking aids like boots, callipers, crutches, wheelchairs, tricycles etc. All these are practical social issues that the community members should adopt as part of community participation in CBR projects in their different communities. Nigeria as a whole being a component community is obliged to embrace meaningful programme approved by WHO committed to the benefit of the less-privileged and the handicapped members of every society. There is need for a convention that will establish or consolidate norms for the provision and protection of people who are handicapped. Such convention should highlight the important aspect at the national level of legislative, administrative, judicial and constitutional measures to ensure that people with handicap problems will fully realise and enjoy their human rights in the area of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
In spite of aides provided by the government, observable evidence show that the most of the handicapped people in Uyo metropolis still go around begging for alms to survive which sometimes causes nuisance in the streets, school premises, churches etc. In this part of the Country, begging as a way of life was and is still frowned at. Each family retained and helped its handicapped member(s) as it was almost a taboo for a family to allow its members to beg for alms. These handicapped persons should not be kept within the family and cared for; they should be given some vocational education like weaving, bag making, mat making, carving etc in order to make them useful members of the Society (Ijere, 1978). This study therefore intends to unfold the possible ways and means to render essential welfare services to the handicapped persons in Uyo metropolis of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Over the years studies conducted by scholars in Nigeria have shown that handicapped persons often suffer so many challenges ranging from deprivation of welfare services, inferiority complex as well as limitations in the degree of participation in the normal life of the society. According to CLEEN foundation report (2004), some factors responsible for handicapped conditions are birth defects and health issues, oil pipeline explosions and road accidents etc. Persons who are handicapped have long been exposed to prejudice, discrimination and deprivation of essential welfare services as a result of their inability to cope at the same level as able-bodied people in similar circumstances.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates put the number of Handicapped persons at 19 million of the country’s population. In Nigeria, a lot of people view handicapped persons as a curse. They are discriminated against even within the family. This resultant attitude has denied this Nigerians of their rights to the dignity of the human person, and to the development of their full potential, as well as participation in the development of the Society. The issue of welfare services on handicapped persons is currently generating some concerns in the society (Nigeria) and the conspicuously insufficient empirical research on this topic especially in Uyo metropolis are factors that stimulated a strong interest for this research. Also, to highlight to the Government and other Agencies the need for provision of essential welfare services to handicapped persons as well as fill in the gaps of knowledge and ways in which the handicap persons in Uyo can be independent and socially integrated in the society.
As a result of the inability of handicapped persons to participate in the normal life of the family and the community, they become maladjusted because of a feeling of inequality, lack of prestige and other concomitants of “not belonging”. Handicapped persons in our society have provided challenges to those who provide for their education and rehabilitation. Provision for and modifications of services to accommodate them have created problems which have stimulated innovation and imagination in the quest for appropriate solutions.
The Objectives of this study is therefore aimed at achieving the following:
To examine the role played by the government and other organisations for the betterment of the handicapped persons in the State.
To seek ways in which policy makers could formulate laws against the discrimination of handicapped persons in the State.
To highlight possible welfare services made available for the handicapped persons.
To identify the effectiveness as well as weaknesses of welfare services on the handicapped persons.
Significance of the Study
The significance of this study cannot be overemphasized; First, this study will go a long way to enlighten individuals especially the handicap persons on their rights and benefits put in place for them by government in the society.
Second, the study will assist guardians, social workers and the Nigerian masses to adopt measures which will assist handicap persons in improving their standard of living and general wellbeing. Third, the research will serve as a source of reference to others who may want to carry out similar research in a more detailed format.
1.5 Scope and Limitations of the Study
In this study, the problems and challenges of the handicap persons in Uyo metropolis will be critically examined. Also, the vital welfare services and programmes put in place by the government to cater for their basic needs will be discussed. However, the study will be limited to three selected sampled streets in Uyo metropolis since it has a wide geographical coverage. The reason for selecting three streets is because of limited time and schedule. Thus, the sampled streets selected will represent the study sampled population within Uyo metropolis.
1.6 Research Hypotheses
The hypothesis is a tentative statement of the expected relationship between two or more variables that need to be proved empirically. The study will formulate and test the following hypotheses which are stated in Null (Ho) and alternative (H1) forms.
Ho: There is no significant relationship between social marginalisation and handicapped persons.
H1: There is significant relationship between social marginalisation and handicapped persons.
Ho: There is no significant relationship between lack of vocational training and handicapped persons.
H1: There is significant relationship between lack of vocational training and handicapped persons.
Ho: There is no significant relationship between inadequate health care services and handicapped persons.
H1: There is significant relationship between inadequate health care services and handicapped persons.
1.7 Definition of Concepts
The definition of concept in this study will enable readers of the work to understand the meaning of terms used in the study.
WELFARE SERVICES: These are those organized activities that are primarily and directly concerned with consideration of protection and improvement of human resources which include social services, social assistance, children welfare, public health, education, recreation, labour and housing.
VOCATIONAL EDUCATION: Vocational education is education within vocational schools that prepares people for a specific trade. It directly develops expertise in techniques related to technology, skill and scientific technique to span all aspects of the trade. E.g. weaving, bag making, basket making, mat making, carving, etc.
HANDICAPPED PERSONS: People living with conditions that markedly restricts a person’s ability to function physically, mentally or socially.
PROGRAMMES: It is plan of things that will be done or included for development to take place.
POLICY: This is referred to as laid down rules and regulations that spell out what should be done.
DISCRIMINATION: Discrimination is treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favour of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing is perceived to belong to rather than on individual merit.
SOCIAL MARGINALISATION: In this study refers to the process whereby the handicapped people are pushed to the edge of a group in the society and accorded lesser importance. It is also predominantly a social phenomenon by which a minority or sub-group is excluded, and their needs or desire ignored.
ORGANISATIONS: A social unit of people or body that is structured and managed to meet a need or to pursue collective goals.
WELL-BEING: This entails a good or satisfactory condition of existence; a state characterized by health, happiness, and prosperity of a person.
HEALTH CARE SERVICES: In this study refers to furnishing of medicine, medical or surgical treatment, and any other necessary services of like character, whether or not contingent upon sickness or personal injury, as well as the furnishing to any person of any and all other services and goods for the purpose of preventing, alleviating, curing or healing human illness, physical disability or injury.
SOCIAL WELFARE: This is seen as a system of laws, programmes, benefits and services which strengthen or assure provisions for meeting social needs recognized as basic for the population and the functioning of the social order.
Social work is a profession concerned with helping individuals, families, groups and communities to enhance their individual and collective well-being. It aims to help people develop their skills and their ability to use their own resources and those of the community to resolve problems. It is an organized work directed toward the betterment of social conditions in the community, as by seeking to improve the condition of the poor, to promote the welfare of children, handicaps and less privileged etc.
SOCIAL SECURITY: Social security is a programme of production provided against certain contingencies such as unemployment, old age, industrial accidents and invalidity against which the individuals cannot be expected to protect themselves and their families by their own abilities and resources. This general goal of social protection as rule is secured this through the various forms of public assistance.
DISABILITY: Disability is the consequence of an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental, or some combination of these. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.