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Number of qualified therapists in Singapore for special needs children

Miss Cheryl Chan Wei Ling
MP for Fengshan

Question


To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) what is the respective number of qualified therapists in Singapore for occupational therapy, speech therapy and physiotherapy for special needs children; (b) what proportion of these therapists are working in Government-funded organisations versus private practice; and (c) what is the current student intake at the institutes of higher learning IHLs for such specialised courses.

Answer

1. There are approximately 3,600 occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech therapists registered with the Allied Health Professions Council (AHPC) as at December 20181. Slightly more than half of these therapists practise in the public healthcare sector, and about 20% work in private practice. In either of these contexts, the therapists may work with children with special needs2.  

2. Another 15% of AHPC-registered therapists are employed in MSF- and NCSS-funded Social Service Agencies (SSAs). These 230 occupational therapists, 150 physiotherapists, and 140 speech therapists serve a number of social service programmes, including Early Intervention programmes for children with special needs, and Special Education schools.

3. With the ramp-up in programmes serving children with special needs, MSF has funded three Therapy Hubs since 2015. These Therapy Hubs are run by SSAs3. They train and deploy therapists to MSF- and NCSS-funded social service programmes, including those run by other SSAs which may not have sufficient scale to hire and retain their own therapists. 

4. The three Therapy Hubs have expanded their capacity significantly in the past four years, growing from approximately 170 therapists in 2015 to 260 therapists in 2018. More than half of these Hub therapists, or over 150 therapists, support paediatric intervention in multiple settings, including Early Intervention centres, Development Support provided in preschools, and Special Education schools. We will continue to support the Therapy Hubs and other SSAs so that they, in turn, can do their best to support children with special needs.

5. On the current student intake, the occupational therapy and physiotherapy Bachelors’ courses are run by the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), while the speech therapy graduate-entry Masters’ course is run by the National University of Singapore (NUS). The average total annual intake of these courses from 2016 to 2018 was around 220. 

6. MSF and MOH will continue to work with the Institutes of Higher Learning to ensure that cohort sizes are commensurate with the demand for therapists from both the health and social service sectors, and that the content of the courses meets the needs of both sectors.

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 1 Information taken from the AHPC Annual Report 2018, available online.
 2 There are approximately 140 occupational therapists, 440 physiotherapists and 160 speech therapists in private practice.
 3 The SSAs are AWWA, SPD and Thye Hua Kwan.

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Published On Mon, Aug 5, 2019
Last Reviewed On Thu, Aug 8, 2019

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