Opening Address by Mr Chan Heng Kee at the 8th Cerebral Palsy Symposium
Assoc Professor Kevin Lim, Chairman of CPAS.
Assoc Professor Dr Winnie Goh, our Keynote Speaker for today.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning. I am delighted to join you this morning.
The past two months have been a time of reflection for Singaporeans. In August, we celebrated our National Day – our 50th as an independent country. Over the last two weeks, we experienced general elections fever, culminating in the casting of our votes yesterday.
I have observed that Singaporeans now have a strong desire and common aspiration to build a more inclusive Singapore. A place where every Singaporean has hopes for a better life. A society with a heart for those with less. And a home which we all feel we belong.
Some of you may have heard of the Enabling Masterplan. Developed through collaboration between government and community, this is a blueprint to bring about greater inclusiveness for persons with disabilities. Over the last few years, we have made progress.
Since 2013, children born with congenital & neonatal conditions, including cerebral palsy, received automatic Medishield coverage from birth. Come November this year, this coverage will be extended for life under the new Medishield Life. We have expanded capacity and raised subsidies for early intervention services for pre-schoolers. Students at special education schools are benefiting from improved programmes, while those with special needs in our mainstream schools are receiving greater support. To improve physical accessibility for persons with disabilities, we introduced a suite of transport subsidies and initiatives, and a new building code. More funding has been made available through the Assistive Technology Fund for the purchase or repair of assistive devices.
What is also encouraging is that we are increasingly recognising the potential and contribution of persons with disabilities. We now have among our parliamentarians Ms Chia Yong Yong, a wheelchair user with peroneal muscular atrophy. Last month, visually impaired author and community leader Mr Tan Guan Heng was conferred a prestigious National Day Award.
Others are developing their own paths and contributing in their own ways. Early this year, I paid a visit to CPAS and met Lucinda, Heng Chuen and May Leng, three persons with cerebral palsy. They were competently and proudly managing CPAS’ gift shop Come December, Singapore will host the ASEAN ParaGames, where we will have a record number of 145 Team Singapore para-athletes representing the country. They include a cerebral palsy team representing Singapore in the 7-a-side football event. I understand from CPAS that some of their alumni and beneficiaries are representing Singapore in Boccia and Equestrian. Please root for them come December!
These are good examples of the progress we are making. We should be encouraged. Yet, I also know that developing a society where persons with disabilities are enabled and supported, and where they have opportunity to become integral and participating members, is an ongoing endeavour. There is yet more that we can do. There are many areas where we can do better.
Beyond policies, programmes and resourcing, initiatives such as today’s symposium also play an important role. The continual renewal of knowledge and skills is a perennial key to improvement. By involving experts and participants from different countries, this event facilitates cross-border sharing of knowledge and learning of new skills.
I also commend the organisers for recognising the important roles different stakeholders play in the lives of people with cerebral palsy. Bringing together healthcare professionals, educators, planners and administrators, beneficiaries and caregivers will help us develop well-rounded perspectives. By involving participants from the government, academia and community, it also provides a platform to strengthen existing collaborations and spur future partnerships. All these will in turn help us to do more and do better towards enabling and supporting persons with cerebral palsy towards greater independence and integration.
Let me conclude by applauding CPAS’ effort in promoting the continual improvement of knowledge, skills and services. I also thank them for their good work and significant contribution over the years in improving the lives of persons with cerebral palsy. I wish all of you an enjoyable and fulfilling symposium.