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Speech by Mr Sam Tan Chin Siong at the Committee of Supply 2020

INTRODUCTION

1   Chairman, we are building a more caring and inclusive Singapore. One where individuals are valued for who they are, and also enabled to achieve their potential.

2   The Enabling Masterplans aim to support persons with disabilities, recognise their abilities, and help them to participate meaningfully in our community and in our society.

3   As part of the Masterplans, we set up SG Enable in 2013 to better support them. Since then, SG Enable has become a trusted partner to persons with disabilities, their caregivers and social service agencies (SSAs). 
 
STRENGTHENING SERVICE DELIVERY AND RESPONSIVENESS

4   Minister Desmond Lee spoke about placing citizens at the centre of our work, and also the consolidation of disability support services under SG Enable in his speech earlier. Please allow me to explain further.

5   Over the past 3 years, we have spoken to persons with disabilities, caregivers, social service operators and many stakeholders, to understand the challenges and needs that they face.

a) From their feedback, one common challenge is the need to work with different agencies and SSAs at different life stages to get help, and sometimes having to submit the same documents multiple times. To them, having a single touchpoint to support them at all life-stages would make life easier.

b) Many SSAs in the disability sector also told us that the sector could be better coordinated. For example, they have to work with different agencies to get approval and funding for different programmes and activities.

6   We are grateful to our partners and stakeholders, and have been making efforts to streamline service delivery for the disability sector based on their feedback.

7   So, I’m pleased to announce that from 1 October 2020, SG Enable will become the single touchpoint for the disability sector. It will take over the administration of disability programmes currently run by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and the National Council of Social Service (NCSS). In addition, people who are willing to serve and contribute towards creating an inclusive society will be able to identify SG Enable as the single touchpoint to volunteer their time and services.

8   Ms Denise Phua and Ms Cheryl Chan made an important point on promoting inclusion and also correcting misperceptions about persons with disabilities. This begins with building positive attitudes and improving understanding through public education.

9   To make our public education messages stronger and clearer, SG Enable will lead public education efforts related to disability. This includes reaching out to the broader community through the “See the True Me” campaign, and also coming up with resources on how people should interact with persons with disabilities, and how they can be supported at the workplace.

10   Bringing different functions under one roof will improve efficiency, oversight, and coordination of services. In addition, it will also provide clear direction for the many helping hands involved.

11   This new single-touchpoint structure is the next big step forward for the sector – to bring stakeholders under one umbrella to co-create and co-deliver services and solutions for persons with disabilities.

WORKING TOGETHER AS ONE

12   Sir, last year we formed three cross-sectoral Enabling Masterplan workgroups on Employment, Independent Living, and Inclusive Preschools.

13   The workgroups have worked with government and community partners over 13 engagement sessions. We consulted more than 200 persons with disabilities, caregivers and over 40 different SSAs from the disability sector.

14   With their input and suggestions, we are now working across the whole of government, together with private and community partners, to co-create and co-deliver solutions to address the problems identified and raised during the 13 engagement sessions.

15   Ms Denise Phua and Ms Sylvia Lim asked about what we are doing to help persons with disabilities in terms of training and employment. As announced earlier by the Ministry of Manpower, the Government has introduced new initiatives such as the Enabling Employment Credit and the enhancements to the Open Door Programme.

16   That said, we are also aware that government measures alone are not enough to meet all the needs. We need to bring the public, private and people sectors together to advance inclusive employment. A good example of how we do this is through the partnership between SG Enable and SSAs to provide training and job support services, and their partnership with inclusive employers such as UOB to run initiatives such as “The Unlimited”, which helps them reach out to even more employers who are willing to employ persons with disabilities. But of course there is always more that we can do together.

17   So under the employment workgroup, which I co-chair with Ms Denise Phua, we put ourselves in the shoes of a person with disability looking for a job and we tried to understand the challenges that they face, and we have tried our best to identify the areas where they need more help. Through this exercise, we have identified four key areas where we can and we will do more to help them.

18   Now let me use an example to elaborate this further. Take for example, Mark, who is about to graduate from SPED school, and will be looking for a job.

a) First, to enhance Mark’s work capability, we will help him to improve in areas that employers have identified as crucial. These areas include soft-skills such as communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills.

b) Second, we will create alternative supported employment models and job opportunities for Mark, as he may not be ready to work in an open employment environment yet.

c) Third, we will enhance employment services to match and place Mark in a job.

d) Fourth, we will enable Mark’s colleagues to better understand and support him on the job, and we will strengthen education and awareness on working with persons with disabilities.

e) There are initiatives planned for each of these areas. One such initiative is the development of a soft-skills curriculum for students with disabilities, which MOE is working with employers, schools and SSAs on.

19   Ms Denise Phua and other caregivers have also raised concerns about a gap in terms of continual education and training. The workgroup is working with relevant people and also private sector partners to address this concern.

20   All these efforts to support persons with disabilities in terms of training, work and employment are in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), something that was mentioned by Ms Sylvia Lim earlier.

21   Besides employment, independent living is another issue raised by persons with disabilities and their caregivers. The workgroup on independent living, which I co-chair with Ms Chia Yong Yong, is looking into how we can help persons with disabilities live more independently in the community.

22   While we recognise that there is a broad spectrum of disability types, allow me just to illustrate with the example of Amanda who is visually impaired. By stepping into her shoes, we better understand the challenges she faces along the way to access public transportation, and what can enable her to overcome them.

a) First, Amanda needs to cross the road from her house to the train station. She can activate the Green Man + (plus) at the pedestrian crossing. Not only does this function give her additional time to cross the road safely, the beeping sound also helps to orientate her in the right direction.

b) At the train station, Amanda needs to find her way to the gantry. Here she relies on the tactile flooring to guide her to the gantry, but she needs to take out and tap her EZ Link card. By using radio frequency identification or Bluetooth technology that LTA is testing, she can in the future pass through the gantry hands free without any difficulty. 

23   At this point, let me extend my appreciation to Mr Cheong Kwek Bin and the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH). Working with a visually impaired person like Kwek Bin as a member of our workgroup has been immensely helpful. He and SAVH members have provided invaluable insights on how things can be improved.

24   Collaborating with them has enabled us to gain insights, to use smart design and assistive technology to further help persons with disabilities to get around the built environment and use public transport. Another example of such a collaboration was the Mobility Assistance for the Visually Impaired and Special Users (MAVIS) pilot earlier shared by MOT.

25   We also aim to increase public awareness and understanding on how to lend a hand to persons with disabilities if they need assistance, and also ensure that they have better access to information and online services. Many of these improvements will not only benefit persons with disabilities, but also all of us.

26   The third Workgroup on inclusive pre-schools which Senior Parliamentary Secretary (SPS) Faishal Ibrahim and Associate Professor Kenneth Poon co-chair is studying models for inclusive preschools that will allow children with severe developmental needs to receive Early Intervention and Early Childhood services. SPS Faishal will elaborate more on this later.

27   All the three workgroups have taken in findings from the engagement sessions and will put up their recommendations later this year.

GREATER PEACE OF MIND FOR CAREGIVERS

28   Chairman, we are also doing more to provide support for caregivers of persons with disabilities.

29   Mr Seah Kian Peng noted that Special Student Care Centres (SSCCs) are key to supporting caregivers. They are particularly essential for caregivers who need to work or care for other dependents and themselves.

30   I am therefore happy to announce that MSF will improve funding and subsidy support for families of SSCC students, and extend the subsidies to more families of SPED students.

31   From 1 July 2020, we will raise the eligibility criteria for means-tested subsidies from $4,000 to $9,200, and we will also lower out-of-pocket expenses for SSCC services. This reduces the out-of-pocket cost for a child from a family with a combined household income of $4,000 by around 75%, or from currently $582 to $142 a month starting from July. 

32   However, beyond the reduction in fees, these enhancements also provide much needed support and respite for caregivers like Mdm Valerie who fell ill and could not take care of her daughter Kylie. Before joining MINDS SSCC, Kylie had to be placed in institutional care. The SSCC helped Kylie learn to be more independent in her daily living skills, and facilitated her return home to her family when her mother recovered.

33   Ms Rahayu Mahzam asked how we could make it more convenient for persons with disabilities and their caregivers to access the support they require. Besides making services more affordable, we are also making information more accessible.

34   To this end, SG Enable launched a new online website called “The Enabling Guide” in July last year. As a one-stop resource for persons with disabilities and caregivers to find help easily, it pulls together information and resources on various disability schemes and services, and guides users to make informed decisions about service options across the life stages. Sector professionals from the disability sector can also use information in the Enabling Guide to help their clients.

35   Ms Denise Phua and Ms Cheryl Chan also asked important questions about the support available for persons with disabilities as caregivers age, and how we can help caregivers prepare for a future where the caregivers themselves are no longer able, or around, to take care of their children.

a) Caregivers of persons who lack mental capacity can make financial arrangements such as setting up trust accounts with the Special Needs Trust Company. They can also apply to Court to be appointed as their child's deputies and have a successor deputy appointed to take their place when the need arises. MSF has also introduced the Assisted Deputyship Application Programme (ADAP) to make the deputyship application process simpler and cheaper.

b) We want to assure caregivers that there is a continuum of support and residential facilities and programs for persons with disabilities.

c) Those who can live independently can tap on government funds for Assistive Technology devices to make their lives easier.

d) Others who require some caregiving support can consider residential options in the form of government-funded Community Group Homes and Adult Disability Hostels.

e) But we also know that there are some who need greater caregiving support. When their caregivers pass away and if no one can take-over caregiving responsibilities, the Government will step in to take care of them in government-funded Adult Disability Homes as the last resort. Sir, we will not leave them alone to fend for themselves. We will not.

f) In line with the suggestion by Ms Denise Phua, we will continue to work with other relevant agencies to develop the continuum of housing options for persons with disabilities, as well as to make other community services more inclusive.

36   Mr Chairman, I would like to speak in Mandarin now.

37   主席先生,我们正在努力地打造一个每个人都能各尽所能、积极参与和做出贡献的包容性社会。

提高特需学生托管中心津贴

38 从今年7月1号开始,我们将提高特需学生托管中心 (Special Student Care Centres,SSCC) 的津贴, 让更多就读于特别教育学校 (Special Education schools) 的学生受惠。

39   能够享有这项津贴的家庭月入顶限将从目前的4000元提高到9200元。这意味着,多数的家庭每月所需要付出的费用将减少百分之30到百分之80之间。对于一个月入4000元的家庭来说,它所需要付出的费用将从每个月的582元降低到142元,减少了大约百分之75。

新加坡协助残障者自立局

40   另外,从今年10月1日开始,新加坡协助残障者自立局(简称SG Enable)将成为残障服务的单一触点。它将接管目前由社会及家庭发展部和国家福利理事会分别管理的残障服务资金和行政管理工作。SG Enable也将会负责与这些项目相关的宣传工作和活动,包括从国家福利理事会接管“认识真我”的推广活动。

41   这项重大的改组,能够让SG Enable更有效地统筹资源,规划项目,减少重复,提高效益,为残障人士和他们的看护者提供更加迅速有效的服务。

42   在去年7月,SG Enable也启动了“残障咨讯指南网站”。这个一站式的网络平台让残障人士和他们的看护者更容易地寻找协助。它汇集了多项残障服务的相关资讯和资源,让使用者在人生的不同阶段里,能够根据当时的需求,获得适当的信息。在服务残障领域的社会机构和专业人士也同时能够利用这个网站所提供的资讯,为他们的服务对象提供更恰当的协助。

残障服务总蓝图

43   我们也会继续和来自民间组织、私人企业和公共部门的伙伴紧密地合作,创造更具包容性的社会。在第三“残障服务总蓝图”下(Enabling Masterplan 3),政府成立了三个跨领域的工作小组,探讨如何能更好地支持并协助残障人士度过人生的各个不同阶段。这包括如何通过“共容幼儿园”(inclusive preschool)的新模式,更好地支持特需孩童、提升残障人士的就业能力、以及运用科技来协助残障人士能够获得独立的生活。这些工作小组将在今年下半年公布有关的详。

CLOSING

44   Chairman, in closing, everyone has a part to play in building a caring and inclusive society. Inclusion is not just a vision. It is action. It is about people coming together, enabling each other to create a Singapore where every individual can achieve his or her potential. We want to build a Singapore that we are all proud to call Home. So at this moment I would like to turn the floor over to SPS Faishal to speak about other programs and services by MSF. Thank you.

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