Ladies and gentlemen
I am delighted to join you this morning at this SPD Education Programme Awards Presentation Ceremony. Let me first congratulate all the award recipients for their achievements.
Established in 1985, the SPD Education Programme is an important initiative in the disability community. Its bursaries give deserving students from modest financial backgrounds a better chance of success in school. Dedicated social workers also provide the students valuable social support and help them develop useful life-skills. I am also happy to note that the students are encouraged to be all-rounders. For example, the SPD Youth Aspiration Award encourages them to pursue interests outside the academic arena.
Over the last 30 years, the award has provided close to $3 million in support to more than 3,500 students with physical disabilities or students whose parent or parents have physical disabilities, to help pursue their education and passion. This year, it will award another $76,050 in bursaries to 97 students from all levels - from primary to secondary school, junior college, pre-university, ITE, polytechnic and university.
Today, we recognise the hard work and outstanding achievements of these extraordinary young people. Congratulations on your achievement! I know all of you have worked very hard and done very well to overcome the obstacles in your way. In doing so, you have no doubt also inspired many others around you.
Let me also take this opportunity to acknowledge the support and love of the parents, family members and teachers present here today. You are very much a part of the awardees’ success.
This being the start of a new year, I thought I would share with you my hopes for the disability community in this new year.
Some of you may have heard of the Enabling Masterplan. This is a national blueprint for policies and programmes to help build a more inclusive society for persons with disabilities. The blueprint was developed with the participation of representatives from the government, voluntary and welfare organizations as well as the private sector. Mr Abhimanyau Pal, the Executive Director of SPD, was in fact part of the Committee that came out with this Masterplan in 2012.
My first hope for the disability community is that our society continues to make progress on the Enabling Masterplan. This means improving support for
persons with disabilities at different life stages – early intervention for children, education for the young, employment and adult care. And helping them with enablers such as transport and technology, which can bring improvements to their lives and help them maximize their potential. It also means society as a whole being more inclusive to persons with disabilities.
I know that Voluntary Welfare Organisations such as SPD is working very hard towards these ends. So too is my Ministry. As part of the government’s effort to do more, my ministry established a new agency last year. Called SG Enable, it is located at Redhill, not far from SPD. My second hope for this New Year is that SG Enable will grow into an effective agency that helps enable persons with disabilities. One that works with Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) and companies to play useful roles. One that will be relevant to some of you in a number of ways.
- In Empowering with timely information and referral services, grants and support.
- In Enhancing employability and employment opportunities, and
- In Engaging families, communities, and the wider public towards the same goal.
These are worthy goals. We have made encouraging headway, but we also have much room to go. My Ministry will work closely with persons with disabilities and their families, likeminded voluntary welfare organisations and corporations. I should take this opportunity to commend NatSteel - the main sponsor of the bursary awards under the SPD Education Programme. You set a good example of how corporations can be a strong pillar of support in our community.
My third hope therefore is for more and stronger partnerships among government, corporate, community and families in 2014, with each offering their resource and know-how to make Singapore a more inclusive society for persons with disabilities. The Ministry will work with VWOs such as SPD, which is not only a voice for people with disabilities, but a doer that offers useful initiatives and programmes. We also want more corporations to come on board to play a part, especially in the area of training and employment. Many of today’s award recipients too can play a role in contributing back to the community.
Next year, when SPD presents its Education Programme Awards to the next batch of recipients, I hope that we would have made progress on all three counts. And our society a few steps close in being more inclusive for persons with disabilities.
Before I end, let me again congratulate all the award recipients and their families here today. I wish you success and fulfillment in the year ahead. Thank you.