|Jakarta - Jakarta administration’s autism center in Cipayung, East Jakarta, which has been designated to provide free assistance to low-income families, cannot provide services optimally despite its launch being only a year ago.
The parties in charge of the autism center — the Jakarta Social Affairs Agency as the representative of the city administration and its partner, the Indonesian Autism Awareness Society (Mpati) — say they hesitate to take any action to provide free assistance and training to low-income families with autistic children as planned as no memorandum of understanding (MoU) had been signed.
M. Ridwan, the head of Children’s Social Rehabilitation Unit at the Jakarta Social Affairs Agency, said recently that an MoU as a legal basis of the cooperation had yet to be signed even though a draft had been drawn up in December last year.
“The personnel changes at the Social Affairs Agency caused the signing to be delayed,” he said.
Agency head Masrokhan confirmed via text message that an echelon III officer rotation had happened three months ago, adding that the previous verbal agreement between the agency and Mpati was valid until the MoU was signed.
The MoU states the rights and obligations of the administration and Mpati in running the city’s only free autism center.
“According to the plan, initially the agency provides the required social workers as spearheads of our dissemination program to raise public awareness about autism, while Mpati with its competent staff is to provide us the with training,” Ridwan said.
Unfortunately, as a result of the legal uncertainty, Mpati cannot provide its assistance freely.
“So far, we, through our Jakarta Autism Friendly Program [JRA], can only give training and disseminate information to members of the public who specially request this at our headquarters,” Mpati deputy head Farida Kadarusno said.
Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, then Jakarta governor, declared in 2013 Jakarta to be autism-friendly, a declaration that was followed by the establishment of the Cipayung autism center, which was opened in conjunction with last year’s World Autism Awareness Day in April by then deputy governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.
If the MoU can be signed this year, the autism organization, which was established in 2004, plans to provide free workshops and training to families with autistic kids by next year, hoping these can reduce the mistreatment and mishandling of the children, said Farida.
“But if not, we’re afraid that the program must be postponed, including the children’s therapy program,” she said, adding that the therapy program could not be conducted because they could not recruit any therapists yet.
Indonesia has no reliable data on autism cases. Data collected by Yayasan Autisma Indonesia estimates that the number of people with autism stood at one per 500 children in 2000, an increase from one per 5,000 children in the previous 10 years.
Mpati claimed it had given training and disseminated information to 4,600 people in all five municipalities in Jakarta last year through the JPRA.
Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama said Monday that he was not aware of this legal matter and that any obstacles should have been reported to him directly.
“If I was aware of this [matter], I could have offered them assistance.”
The two rooms designated for the autism center offices behind a building owned by an orphanage, the Panti Sosial Asuhan Anak Balita Tunas Bangsa, were unattended. There were only couches, office chairs and desks, as well as piles of autism awareness flyers and books. A whiteboard was attached to one of its walls with instructions on how to use a toilet.
“I guess this was written to train the volunteers of autistic kids,” said Muji, one of the orphanage staff members who accompanied The Jakarta Post in inspecting the rooms last Monday.
Siti, an administration staff member of the city-owned orphanage that is situated on Jl. Bina Marga, Cipayung, East Jakarta, said that the center had not conducted any activities lately.
“That is the city’s program and we are not aware of it. We only provide the rooms as instructed by the administration,” she said. (prm)
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