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Response to Motions on Caregiver Support and Ageing

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar)
Dr Lily Neo (Jalan Besar)
Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah)
Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok)
Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson)

Motion on Caregiver Support

That this House recognises, given our rapidly ageing population, the important role that caregivers play in helping our Singaporeans age with dignity, and calls on the Government and the community to continue strengthening support for caregivers.

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Mr Henry Kwek (Nee Soon)
Dr Lily Neo (Jalan Besar)
Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar)
Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson)
Ms Rahayu Mazam (Jurong)
Ms Cheng Li Hui (Tampines)

Motion on Ageing

That this House calls for a whole of Singapore effort to ensure that Singaporeans are able to age with purpose and dignity, stay healthy and connected, and be financially stable to look forward to their years ahead.


Answer

1 Mr Speaker, caregivers are the first line of support for their loved ones, and for some, their only line of support. Their role can be physically, mentally and emotionally demanding, as shared by a few members earlier. It is common to find caregivers neglecting their own well-bring when taking care of their dependants, and risk suffering from burnout. 

2 This is why “Supporting Caregivers” is a key thrust of our Third Enabling Masterplan (EMP3). Through EMP3, we want to help caregivers provide the best possible care to their loved ones, and also to take care of themselves.

3 Caregivers of adults with special needs and caregivers of seniors face similar challenges, such as physical care tasks, care affordability, accessing information and maintaining their emotional well-being. Allow me to highlight how caregivers of persons with special needs will benefit from MOH’s Caregiver Action Plan.

4 The Home Caregiving Grant that MOH will introduce to replace the Foreign Domestic Worker Grant will provide much-needed support for caregivers of persons with special needs. It will increase financial support for caregivers of individuals with permanent disability, who require assistance to perform at least 3 Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). In addition, the grant can be used for a broader range of support rather than just for hiring foreign domestic workers. For example, it can be used to pay for out of pocket expenses such as Day Activity Centre fees.

5 MOM is also encouraging more employers to incorporate Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs) to reduce stress faced by working caregivers. FWAs give working caregivers greater flexibility to manage their time when the caregiving need arises. 

6 Beyond the caregiver action plans, MSF and our partners also support caregivers through various initiatives targeted at helping caregivers across life stages. Allow me to share some examples.

7 We are improving support for caregivers and parents of children with developmental needs. Earlier this year, MSF announced that we will make Early Intervention services more customised to the developmental needs of children, and also make them more affordable. Children under 2 will receive intervention under a new EIPIC Under-2s programme, focused on training parents and caregivers to incorporate intervention strategies in the child’s daily routines in their home. We will also increase subsidies so that early intervention services are more affordable.

8 Taking care of persons with special needs is a lifelong journey, and for some a lifelong commitment, and the support and guidance from other caregivers plays an important part in helping them overcome difficult times. Therefore, SG Enable has been working with the community to facilitate peer-to-peer training, to equip caregivers with the skills to mentor and guide other caregivers. 

9 Last December, Minister Desmond Lee launched the Caregivers Pod at Enabling Village. This is a space specifically set aside for caregivers to take part in peer support activities and caregiving training. Beyond being a place for caregivers to meet, the Caregivers Pod is also a platform for them to connect and share experiences and expertise, and strengthen peer support among themselves. 

10 Connecting caregivers, whether physically, or even through mobile chat groups, allows them to consolidate their thoughts and share their own experiences with others, including government and service agencies, more effectively. For example, after meeting Minister Desmond Lee at the Caregivers Pod last year, a group of 15 caregivers came together and proposed a list of priorities that are most needed by caregivers. We welcome such ground-up initiatives, and are looking into how we can address their concerns through customised solutions. 

11 We are also aware that caregivers, especially older caregivers, worry about care arrangements for their children with special needs after they have passed on. To address this concern, the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC) was set up in 2008 to provide trust management services for these families. We also set up the Special Needs Saving Scheme was established in 2012 to enable parents to set aside CPF savings for the long-term care of their children. We will continue to explore avenues and schemes to help address such concerns.  

12 MSF is always looking at how we can improve the services we offer to caregivers. I thank the members for sharing with us their accounts of the struggles that caregivers in their constituencies face in seeking assistance from government. Indeed, as pointed out by Ms Denise Phua, these are complex cases for which there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, or in her words, “cookie-cutter policies” to address each individual issue. While government must do better to ensure that caregivers in need of help do not fall through the gaps, I thank Ms Denise Phua for also recognising that government alone cannot resolve all the issues, and that we need to involve the wider community to support the needy in our midst. That said, MSF plans to strengthen case coordination and management to provide better social assistance in cases of complex needs. We will share more about these plans at the Committee of Supply this year.

13 Sir, to do good work better, government must engage stakeholders, and be open to their feedback and work with them. For example, the EMP3 steering committee called for improved access to information on disability-related social support and services, and suggested creating a one-stop information portal for caregivers to meet their needs for information on services, caregiving, self-care and well-being. To answer this call, SG Enable is developing a new online portal that will act as a 24/7 information hub pointing caregivers to social support available for their care recipients and for themselves. 

14 We also heard from VWOs that run Special Education schools, that parents feel overwhelmed with options when deciding which care service would best suit their child who is about to graduate at age 18. So now, we are working closely with MOE to improve the transition management process, to help parents make an informed decision on the appropriate care service for their child.

15 Many caregivers have also expressed concerns over the future of their children, especially after they leave school. Parents know that they will not always be able to take care of their children, and they hope that their children will be able to find and hold on to good jobs, and live independently despite their special needs.  

16 We understand these hopes and concerns, and want to assure them that MSF is committed to meeting the employment needs and enhancing the independent living prospects of persons with special needs. Our “Future Economy” and “Smart Nation” drive will not leave their children behind, but rather, be enablers for greater inclusion both in the workforce and in the community. As part of our efforts to engage the community, to co-design and co-create solutions, we are examining these issues together with persons with special needs, their caregivers, government agencies, VWOs and other stakeholders. MSF will elaborate on these plans at the Committee of Supply.

17 Let me touch on the topic of helping more Singaporeans make a Lasting Power of Attorney, or LPA, which some members, including Ms Cheryl Chan, have raised. The chances of losing mental capacity increase as we age. As individuals, we can plan early to appoint a family member to make decisions for us when we lose mental capacity. This advance planning will give our caregivers clarity and peace of mind. 

18 Making a LPA is therefore critical, and MSF will continue to encourage more Singaporeans to do so. We have simplified the LPA application process and extended the LPA fee waiver of $75 to 31 August 2020. To raise awareness, we recently launched a radio campaign in January, to encourage more Singaporeans to make an LPA. We have also partnered other agencies to hold public education talks. For example, we worked with HDB to inform Singaporeans on LPAs at HDB’s series of Heartland Talks.  We will continue with these public education efforts. 

19 The number of LPA registrations have risen in recent years, almost doubling from around 12,000 LPAs registered in 2017, to around 23,000 registered last year. This is encouraging. Ms Cheryl Chan has suggested using HDB flat transactions as a touchpoint for even more simplified LPA-making. We will certainly look into this suggestion as we continue to explore how we can make it easier for people to make an LPA.

20 In closing, I thank my MOH colleagues for putting the Caregiver Action Plan together, as well as the caregivers and community partners who stepped forward to provide feedback during consultations. The plans are an important step in the right direction, as pointed out by members of this house. I believe that together with the support and partnership of the people, private and public sectors, we can build a more inclusive society for all. Mr Speaker Sir, I support both motions. Thank you.

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Published On Wed, Feb 13, 2019
Last Reviewed On Thu, Feb 14, 2019

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