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Speech by Mr Sam Tan Chin Siong at the Committee of Supply 2019

INTRODUCTION

1. Mr Chairman, Singapore has been working hard these past 12 years, to challenge ourselves to become a society with bigger hearts, where all, regardless of age or ability, have hope for a good future.

THE STORY OF OUR ENABLING MASTERPLANS

2. This is what the three Enabling Masterplans are about: charting our direction towards a more caring and inclusive society, where persons with disabilities or special needs are empowered to participate fully as integral and contributing members.

3. Members may well recall that we first laid the groundwork for an inclusive society by developing services under the first Enabling Masterplan in 2007 - that was 12 years ago.

4. We then went on to enhance support and services, under the second Enabling Masterplan in 2012. Notably, we set up a dedicated agency, SG Enable or SGE, to support persons with special needs and improved the quality of early intervention and education services.

5. It is on this foundation that we are continuing to push forward under the third Enabling Masterplan, or EMP3.

LIFE-STAGE APPROACH OF THE THIRD ENABLING MASTERPLAN

6. Sir, Ms Denise Phua asked about the progress of EMP3. Under the EMP3, the Government is partnering the community to support persons with special needs and also their caregivers across different stages of life. So we adopted a whole life-stage approach.

7. We want to give young children with developmental needs a good start in life. We shall do so by ensuring that they have timely access to quality Early Intervention services. My colleague, SPS Faishal, will share more details later.

8. For children of schooling age, we want to give every child access to learning opportunities, regardless of their abilities. From January this year, we have included children with moderate to severe special educational needs under the Compulsory Education Framework. In 2nd Minister for Education, Ms Indranee Rajah's COS speech, she had elaborated on the support for these students in mainstream schools.

9. We know that transportation is a key enabler, and have put in place various schemes and subsidies to support persons with special needs. These include the VWO Transport Subsidy and the Taxi Subsidy Scheme. The Government is also continually improving the accessibility and inclusivity of public transportation.

10. Sir, we will continue to support students as they move from school to the next stage of life. One such example is the School-to-Work Transition Programme, which matches students who are able to work, to suitable training and employment pathways based on their strengths and interests.

11. For job-seekers with special needs, MSF and SGE will continue to work with MOE and MOM to enhance their employability, expand employment options and promote inclusive hiring.

12. We will continue to help persons with special needs prepare themselves for the workforce. For example, SG Enable works closely with SPD, Autism Resource Centre and the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore to match individuals to suitable jobs, and help them adjust well into the workforce.

13. I am therefore heartened that efforts by the government, community and corporate partners are bearing fruit. However, there is still a lot more that we can do together.

14. I therefore thank Ms Denise Phua for her suggestions to identify, individualise, integrate, implement and also inspect the caregiver support system. We know that a caregiver's job is never an easy one. Indeed, support for caregivers is another key focus of the EMP3. 15. This is why we launched the Caregivers Pod at the Enabling Village last year. It is a place for caregivers to find peer support, and also to attend training sessions and organise sharing sessions among themselves.

16. We also know that caregivers need comprehensive and reliable information on the services available. To respond to this need, SGE is developing a new online portal that will enable caregivers to find relevant resources easily, including for respite care, as suggested by Dr Tan Wu Meng.

17. MSF agrees that formal respite services are needed to provide temporary relief for caregivers to prevent burnout. The Drop-in Disability Programme, or DDP, is a day respite option for caregivers. MSF-funded Disability Homes also offer residential respite care services to those who need it.

18. As announced by MOF, the age limit on children with special needs will also be removed for the Grandparent Caregiver Relief, from the Year of Assessment 2020. Working mothers who seek the help of grandparents to take care of their children with special needs can get tax relief of $3,000, regardless of the child's age.

19. Although these measures will provide welcome support, we also know that many caregivers worry about what will happen to their loved ones when they are older. I will speak more about this later in my speech.

20. For now, I will speak on MSF's forward plans to enable persons with special needs to maximise their potential.

CONTINUING AND DEEPENING ENGAGEMENT

21. Sir, Ms Denise Phua made a very passionate point on the importance of creating greater awareness on the EMP3. She also suggested that the Enabling Masterplans have to be "living documents", and more people and organisations should be co-opted to co-shape and co-implement solutions. I agree with her fully.

22. Sir, in 2019, MSF will deepen our engagement with various stakeholders, including persons with special needs and their caregivers, voluntary welfare organisations, employers, technology providers, and educational institutions. Doing so will not only allow us to better coordinate and provide targeted support to meet the varied needs of differently-abled persons across disability groups, but also increase awareness of the Enabling Masterplans. Together, we can co-create the hardware, software, and heartware of an inclusive Singapore.

23. I am therefore very happy to announce that we will form two cross-sectoral workgroups involving people, private, and public sector partners, to focus on employability and independent living.

a) The first workgroup will look at preparing persons with special needs for the future economy, by enhancing access to lifelong learning opportunities and employment pathways. We must prepare our citizens with special needs for the jobs of today and tomorrow. I am therefore grateful that Ms Denise Phua has kindly agreed to co-chair this workgroup with me, to study this issue further with the relevant stakeholders, in the public, private, and people sectors, including WSG and e2i.

b) Sir, I will also co-chair another workgroup with President of SPD, who is also a former NMP, Ms Chia Yong Yong, to look into promoting independent living through technology and design, in the home setting as well as within the community.

GREATER PEACE OF MIND, AS WE PREPARE FOR AGEING

24. Mr Chairman, all of us want to have assurance that the needs of our loved ones, and those of our own, will continue to be met when we enter our senior years. 25. Dr Tan Wu Meng asked about support for seniors who worry about their children with special needs. We have set up the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC) to support parents and caregivers of persons with special needs in future care planning and financial security. This includes planning for their future expenses for accommodation, health and other care needs.

26. Mr Darryl David had asked about support measures for those who have lost their mental capacity. All Singaporeans need to plan for our own golden years. Having a Lasting Power of Attorney, or LPA, will give us peace of mind, knowing that a trusted loved one is empowered to act for us, should we lose mental capacity. It will also enable our caregivers to act confidently in providing care for us. I thank Mr Dennis Tan for his suggestion to do more to protect Certificate Issuers by amending the LPA Form. We will consider this in our ongoing review of the LPA Form.

27. Yet, there are a number of seniors who may not have the support of family members. They may be single, or married but childless.

28. MSF has introduced two community support options to help these Singaporeans plan ahead in the event of them losing their mental capacity.

29. The first is the Professional Deputies and Donees Scheme, or in short, PDD, which was launched in September last year.

a) Under this scheme, individuals can procure the services of a registered PDD to make major decisions on their behalf, such as liquidating their property to finance their care.

b) To assure individuals that their interests will be protected, we have put in place a training course for PDDs, and also put in place very robust measures to ensure all the regulations and practices are more than enough.

c) 20 individuals have registered as PDDs so far. MSF will continue to train more suitable persons to be PDDs and raise awareness of the PDD services.

30. To complement the PDD scheme, MSF launched a two-year Community Kin Service, or CKS in short. This is a pilot launched in 2018. The scheme allows partner-VWOs to manage the day-to-day expenses of a senior who has lost mental capacity, through the authority of a Court order, and also under the close supervision of the Office of Public Guardian.

a) This could include passing the senior a fixed cash amount from his bank account so that he can buy food and groceries, and make payment for the senior's utility bills so that he will not experience a disruption in the electricity and water supply.

b) And with the help from a community kin, the senior can stay within the community that he is familiar with, while receiving dedicated care.

31. With these schemes in place, we hope that Singaporeans will be able to prepare for their future and also be supported through their golden years.

32. So Mr Chairman, allow me to now speak in Mandarin.

33. 我们向来的愿景就是打造一个每个国人都有能力贡献的包容社会。过去几年,我们朝这目标努力,不断挑战,争取成为一个更宽容的社会,一个不管年龄和能力,人人都对未来抱有美好希望的社会。

34. 在第三"加强残障服务总蓝图"下,我们将为有特别需要者在人生的各个阶段,进一步提供支持,协助他们能够更独立地生活。我们也深知看护责任不仅消耗体力,也非常费心费神。协助看护者更好地照顾亲人,也更好地照顾自己,是第三总蓝图的重点之一。

35. 想要这些计划行之有效,我们需要整个社会包括公共、私人和民间领域齐心合力,紧密合作。为此,我将与一批志同道合、关心残障者的同事,成立两个跨领域工作小组:

a) 一个小组专注于利用科技改善特需者的生活素质;这个小组的联合主席是SPD主席、前官委议员谢邕邕女士;

b) 另一小组则以通过加强终身学习机会和职业途径提高特需者的受雇情况;这个小组的联合主席是自闭症资源中心主席、也是国会议员的潘丽萍女士。

安度晚年,为老龄化社会做好准备

36. 我们每个人都希望安度晚年。所有国人都应未雨绸缪,提早为晚年打算。为此,我们制定了持久授权书(Lasting Power of Attorney,简称LPA)的机制。制定持久授权书,就是委任一名家庭成员或我们信赖的朋友成为被授权人,在我们失去心智能力时,代我们行事或做出决定。清楚委任可为我们做出决定的人不仅减少自己的后顾之忧,也减少看护者的顾虑。

37. 同时,我们也了解身边有一些无亲无故的老人,在丧失心智能力时无依无靠。他们可能是单身人士,也可能已婚但膝下无子。

38. 社会及家庭发展部因此推出两项社区支持计划,帮助这些国人提前打算。

39. 第一项计划是去年9月推出的专业代理人和专业被授权人(Professional Deputies and Donees,简称PDD)计划。

a) 在这个计划下,个人可雇用专业代理人在日后为他们做出重要决定,比如清算财产以资助护理。

40. 为辅助专业代理人和专业被授权人计划,社会及家庭发展部也在去年推出为期两年的社区亲人(Community Kin Service)试验计划。年长者可在这项计划下,委任授权志愿福利团体代为管理财务。通过庭令,被授权的志愿福利团体可以每月从年长者的银行户头提取小部分金额,支付他们的日常费用或医药费。

a) 社区亲人试验计划的首个个案是一名78岁,独居在一房式组屋的老先生。医生已经证明他没有足够的心智能力管理日常财务。在这计划下,来自授权志愿福利团体的社工负责支付他的水电费。社工也每星期看望他两次,给他生活费,让他可以继续原有的日常生活,比如去附近咖啡店吃他喜欢的食物。

b) 在社区亲人的帮助下,年长者可以原地养老,继续在熟悉的邻里社区有所依靠。这项计划由公共监护人办公室监管,以确保年长者的钱不会被滥用。

41. 有了这些计划,我们希望国人能够为晚年提早打算,并在晚年有所依靠。 CLOSING

42. Mr Chairman, all of us can play a part in fostering a caring and inclusive society for all Singaporeans, regardless of their age and their ability. So this is one journey where I hope Singaporeans, particularly those who are interested in and have concern for persons with disabilities or different abilities, can partner us to walk this journey together.

Thank you. 

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Published On Wed, Mar 6, 2019
Last Reviewed On Thu, Mar 7, 2019

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