Ladies and Gentlemen.
We are all here for a good cause. I would like to commend AA(S) in planning services to meet the needs of persons with autism as well as their caregivers. I am happy to note that Eden Day Activity centre will also cater to persons who are not in any adult care services currently. They can have the opportunity to engage in social and leisure activities through the Eden Activity Club on Saturdays. It is truly laudable that the centre is going beyond its regular operating hours to accommodate this. This would not only enable AA(S) to make the most of the space provided but also support community integration of people with disabilities through its programmes and outreach.
Caregivers play a key role in supporting their loved ones, and can complement service providers’ efforts if they are adequately supported through appropriate training. I am encouraged to hear of AA(S)’ Do-It-Yourself Programme and partnership with Autism Resource Centre to develop training resources for caregivers. It is important to equip them with the skills and abilities to carry out the programme, especially those with severe conditions. Where actually most of their lives will revolve in operating in more familiar environments. Providing guidance would also provide caregivers with confidence, instead of feeling helpless. Programming, providing ideas and resources that individuals can carry out at home with their family members is very important.
AA(S) runs MSF funded programmes for adults with disabilities. This Day Activity Centre (or DAC in short) is one of two DACs operated by AA(S). I would like to extend my appreciation to AA(S) for serving adults with autism at these two DACs. Eden Centre for Adults @ Clementi, with a capacity of 40 clients, provides full-day care and skills training to adults with autism. This centre is part of the Enabling Masterplan to provide accessible and affordable services for adults with disabilities.
Since opening its doors in June 2015, Eden Centre has helped several clients. I was heartened to learn from Ms Paula Teo, the Senior Manager, about one such client. Isaiah used to experience a lot of anxiety about leaving his house and being around large groups of unfamiliar people. Initially, he would be so stressed about coming to the centre that he would literally lie down on the floor outside the centre. Once he is inside the centre, he would need to have his own space away from everyone else. Today, Isaiah looks forward to coming to the centre and he is able to have his meals together with everyone in the cafe. He can also participate in a two-person activity. Eden Centre is working on expanding Isaiah’s participation in the various activities conducted here. With Isaiah in the programme, his mother is afforded some respite and is able to cope with her routine better.
It is indeed heartening to hear of how a little help at the right time by trained professionals at the Day Activity Centre can make a big difference in the lives of the clients. Whenever I talk to caregivers, I realise that many of them are searching for ways to enable their loved ones with disabilities to achieve some level of independence. Some of them are not aware where they can go to for assistance in the care and training of their loved ones to enable independence. They also have longer term concerns on the care of their loved ones when they are no longer around. These are practical issues that need to be addressed. MSF will work in tandem with our partners, including AA(S), to enhance care facilities to meet the needs of our adults with disabilities.
In addition to this new Eden DAC, the Eunos Training and Development Centre operated by Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore also began operations last year and caters to adults with mild autism. In 2016, there will be 2 more DACs providing 150 places. 500 more DAC places, of which half will cater to adults with autism, will be developed in the next 5 years bringing the total number of DAC places to 1,700 by 2021. A new Adult Disability Home will also be ready by 2018 for adults with autism and there will be a DAC located on the premise.
Even as we increase the capacity of DAC places to take in more clients, we are mindful that there is also a need to improve on the care aspects like the programme activities and capability of staff looking after our clients. The ‘software’ aspect is very important. While ‘building’ is important, it is easier. The ‘software’ aspect - support elements, especially that of manpower - is something that should be worked on.
We have a tight overhead. Even if we are looking at increasing the funding available, the headcount will be a challenge. It is important for us to look into how we can be more productive and efficient, and more importantly leverage on manpower. Is there a more concrete role that volunteers can play a part?
I am particularly interested in exploring from the corporate social responsibility perspective. Companies are beginning to look beyond individual projects towards sustainable options. As we begin to re-envision our work processes to incorporate some of these initiatives, we can work together to design programs and efforts where volunteers can come in, and leverage on the skills that we have as a whole. This is something we are working on and will release more details in April 2016.
This DAC is situated at a void deck so that the wider community can be part of the efforts by AA(S) in helping persons with disabilities. Currently there are 3 volunteers who help out on a regular basis at the centre with the clients. AA(S) works closely with the local Social Service Office for greater involvement of the neighbourhood in helping people with disabilities living here. This is part and parcel of the growth of a developed nation that works towards a more inclusive society
Once again, I would like to thank AA(S) for all their efforts in the development of facilities to serve more people with autism.