Thursday 23 February 2012

Enabling Masterplan 2012-2016

Five-year roadmap to help the disabled
By Hetty Musfirah, Channel NewsAsia 21 Feb 2012

More initiatives could be rolled out to better integrate and enable people with disabilities.

The steering committee tasked to come up with a new "Enabling Masterplan 2012-2016" submitted its report to Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Chan Chun Sing, on Tuesday.

The new masterplan contains 41 recommendations to help the disabled.

Following six months of deliberations, the committee decided to adopt a life-cycle approach to help persons with disabilities.

The five-year road map (2012-2016) covers early intervention, education, employment and adult care.

Unlike the current five-year plan which targets education and employment, the new road map places more emphasis on early intervention and improvements for the adult-care sector.

On early intervention, the committee recommended the funding of a nationwide development screening programme for children at the age of nine months, 18 months and 24-30 months.

Currently such screenings are done mostly at polyclinics for children at the age of 9 months and 18 months and when the child is 3 years old.

Associate Professor Winnie Goh, head of the Early Intervention Sub-committee, said: "Currently, maternity childcare clinics screen children at nine months and 18 months, and the following screening is at three years old.

"Between the age of 24 and 30 months, there is actually a critical period for language development, socialisation, social development and also very early stage of learning. So it's important if we can pick up this group of children if they have a developmental issue, and we can help them early in order to enhance their developmental potential."

On education, the committee suggested introducing a support programme in all mainstream pre-schools to help those with mild developmental problems integrate better.

Where employment is concerned, the committee also noted some areas of improvement, particularly for the Open Door Fund which gives employers financial support to redesign jobs, modify their work places and train persons with disabilities.

The committee said the application process for the fund, often fraught with paper work, can be further simplified and made user-friendly to encourage more employers to come on board.

As for adult care, the committee called for group homes to be developed for persons with disabilities who have low or no family support so that they can live independently.

Short-term stays can also be offered to them so that their caregivers can get temporary relief from their care-giving duties.

The committee also suggested that the disabled have more transport options. It recommended that a few major dedicated transport providers cater to both the elderly and disabled.

The committee also wants operators to provide transport concessions as part of corporate social responsibility.

The steering committee, chaired by Mr Chua Chin Kiat, described the masterplan as a testament to the people-private-public (3P) approach.

It said this has generated a rich understanding of issues from different perspectives, as well as timely response to its deliberations and recommendations.

Mr Chua said: "We were heartened and quite often touched by the keen participation of persons with disabilities, their parents and caregivers, voluntary welfare organisations and members of the public, who took the time to give us feedback and share their stories.

"They opened our eyes, ears and hearts to understand better how we can make improvements."

Acting Minister Chan Chun Sing said his ministry is already working on some of the recommendations, in areas like transport and employment, and more details can be expected in the upcoming budget debate.

He said: "Some of them, we can implement immediately, [others will] take a bit more resources and take a bit more time. I think all of them are good ideas and over time, once we have the resources and the means, we would want to progressively implement all of them."

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