Friday 30 August 2013

Break for caregivers with drop-in disability programme

Free pilot scheme offers few hours of care for those with disabilities
By Lim Yi Han, The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2013

THREE times a week, Madam Joanne Ong drops off her mildly autistic son, 19, at the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities Seniors Activity Centre.

The short break is a welcome relief for the 43-year-old real estate agent. But more importantly, the time her son spends with the elderly has improved his behaviour.

"It's very tiring to be a caregiver," said Madam Ong. "I can use the three hours to run some errands such as grocery shopping. If I take him out, he gets frustrated easily. But the best part is that my son is more patient now."

This new Drop-in Disability Programme was launched by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) yesterday at the senior activity centre at Telok Blangah.

The pilot is open to those above 16 years old who have physical or intellectual disabilities, require little care and have no major behavioural issues. Caregivers can leave them at certain centres for three hours a day, up to three days a week, for free.

Unlike typical day-care schemes, the disabled can interact with the elderly at the centres. Currently, two Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities Seniors Activity Centres in Telok Blangah and Ang Mo Kio offer this programme. Two more will be added by year end.

The initiative is part of the Government's Enabling Masterplan 2012-2016, which helps in the development of services for the disabled.

MSF Acting Minister Chan Chun Sing said: "If we can integrate the seniors activity centres' programmes with some of these day drop-in programmes, then we can expand the network of care for our needy people.

"The most important challenge going forward is not so much the facilities, which we will be able to ramp up. The most important challenge will be to bring in the necessary manpower."

Mr Lee Kim Siang, chairman of Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities said that the new drop-in programme, which has been running since May, is a "good opportunity to promote inter-generation bonding". The elderly and youngsters share activities such as gardening and even go on outings together.

Madam Cherry Chua is another parent who is thankful for the programme. The 51-year-old, who works in administration at an insurance company, has a 21-year-old daughter who is intellectually behind others her age.

"My daughter gets very agitated when she stays at home because she likes to interact with people," said Madam Chua. "Now she's more attentive and she also helps the elderly do simple things like washing cups. She's so much happier."

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