Mr Don Wee asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) what measures are in place to reach out to caregivers and promote assistance programmes like respite care through social service agencies; and (b) whether there are interim caregiving services available for highly stressed families.
Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong asked the Minister for Social and Family Development whether the Ministry will strengthen its support for (i) parents and caregivers of children with special needs and (ii) ageing parents who are caring for their grown-up children with special needs.
Dr Shahira Abdullah asked the Minister for Social and Family Development what further steps can be taken to ensure that the mental health of caregivers of special needs individuals, children and the elderly are sufficiently supported and that such caregivers will know where to turn to for help.
1. Mr Speaker Sir, may I take questions 37 to 39 together, please? Minister Chan spoke about the support available for children with special needs and their caregivers during the schooling years. I will share more on the support available for caregivers of persons with special needs or disabilities beyond the school setting.
2. SG Enable was set up in 2013 to support persons with disabilities, and is now the single touchpoint for disability and caregiver support services, as well as public education efforts. Caregivers of persons with disabilities who need information to better care for their loved ones and themselves may access the Enabling Guide at www.enablingguide.sg. This is SG Enable’s first-stop resource portal for caregivers to learn more about disabilities in general, as well as available disability services, schemes, caregiver training opportunities, and informal caregiver support groups. Caregivers of persons with disabilities who need more information on caregiver support services can also contact SG Enable at email@example.com.
3. Aside from the Enabling Guide, MSF and SG Enable work with Social Service Agencies to increase awareness of services. Touchpoints occur early as children are diagnosed with special needs at birth or as they develop. This is also the opportunity to begin better equipping caregivers of such young children. For example, SG Enable runs the “Start Right” workshop twice a month, to provide information on Early Intervention (EI), the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC), strategies for caregivers to engage their children at home, as well as available community resources and support. EI centres also provide caregiver engagement and training under EIPIC, so that caregivers are equipped with the skills and knowledge to support their children at home. ECDA is also developing a guide for parents of preschool-aged children who require early intervention, arising from a recommendation by the Inclusive Preschool Workgroup to strengthen support for parents. The parents’ guide will include information on developmental needs, ways to access EI services, support available to facilitate the child’s transition from the preschool years to school-age provisions, as well as self-care strategies and resources. We expect the guide to be ready by April this year.
4. We want to assure caregivers that they are not alone in providing care for their loved ones. There are various care services that they can tap on. EI centres, as well as many preschools, provide support for under the age of seven with developmental needs. Special Student Care Centres (SSCCs) provide before-and-after school care service for children aged 7 to 18 years. Day Activity Centres (DACs) offer day programmes for adults with disabilities aged 18 years and above on either a full-time or part-time basis. Children Disability Homes (CDHs) and Adult Disability Homes (ADHs) provide both long-term and short-term residential care services for persons with disabilities. SG Enable’s “Take-A-Break” Pilot Programme provides short-term home-based respite services.
5. Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of caregivers is essential to enable them to take good care of their loved ones and themselves. Caregivers who are distressed and need someone to speak to can call the National Care Hotline, the Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline, or the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) for support. In addition, the Ministry of Health and the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) have worked with Social Service Agencies to set up caregiver community outreach teams, to provide emotional support for caregivers of persons with mental health conditions, who have or are at risk of developing mental health needs. Caregivers of seniors and persons with mental health needs can visit the AIC website for information on eldercare services, community mental health services, and caregiver support measures, such as financial support schemes and respite care. MSF has also appointed 10 Parenting Support Providers that offer evidence-based parenting support programmes for parents and caregivers of children. These include the Triple P Programme and Signposts that equip parents and caregivers with strategies to manage the child’s behaviour. MSF’s evaluations indicate that attendees reported sustained reductions in parenting stress and improvements in children’s behaviours. Parents and caregivers of children who require low levels of early intervention support and whose children require behavioural support can tap on such programmes as well.
6. Supporting caregivers requires many helping hands. It is a whole-of-society effort involving not just the Government, but the community as well. One example is Project 3i, under the SG Together Alliance for Action for Caregivers of Persons with Disabilities, formed by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) and SG Enable. Project 3i was started by CaringSG, an organisation set up and led by caregivers, for caregivers. Project 3i aims to strengthen community support for caregivers by connecting caregivers with others in the community, providing befriending and peer mentorship by trained caregivers, and providing caregivers and families with complex needs with advisory support from professional volunteers including doctors, therapists, teachers and psychologists, to help them better navigate and access mainstream health and social services. We welcome more of such community-led and caregiver-led initiatives.
7. To all caregivers who are facing the challenges and stressors of taking care of their loved ones, please do reach out if you need any assistance. The caregiving journey can be a stressful one, and caregivers need our strong support. In addition to having services and programmes available for them and their loved ones, it is equally important for family, friends, and other caregivers to provide emotional support. Let us all play a part by extending a helping hand, or a listening ear, when we see someone in need.