Saturday, 19 September 2015

Intellectually disabled, caregivers get more support with new facilities

MINDS opens its first Caregivers Support Services Centre and its fifth day activity centre at the Kembangan-Chai Chee Community Hub.
By Alice Chia, Channel NewsAsia, 18 Sep 2015

The intellectually disabled and their caregivers will be able to get more support, with the official opening of Movement for the Intellectually Disabled's (MINDS) first Caregivers Support Services Centre (CSSC) and its fifth day activity centre on Friday (Sep 18).

The CSSC will help caregivers through a range of programmes, including those that provide training and referrals to financial aid. MINDS hopes to reach out to about 2,000 caregivers through the centre.

The day activity centre, called the Eunos Training & Development Centre, helps the intellectually disabled who display more challenging behaviour to pick up life skills such as personal grooming and hygiene.

With a capacity of up to 100 adult clients, the centre is MINDS' largest day activity centre and can cater to twice as many clients as existing centres. This will help to ease the wait for day activity centre admissions after pupils from MINDS schools graduate at the end of each academic year.

Said MINDS CEO Keh Eng Song: "It should hold another three years before it is full, but it does not mean that every time we open up a centre, we will completely eradicate the waitlist. Because it depends on where they are.

"Right now, our waitlist is about 76. Majority of them actually are in the west and in the north. So that is why this centre in terms of capacity will not be filled up so quickly, but the pressure is now on the west and the north. We have easily 50 to 60 in the waitlist in those areas."

Mr Liew Chong Pow's eldest son is among the 46 currently enrolled in the centre.

A former lecturer, Mr Liew, 60, retired six years ago to spend more time caring for his family, especially his eldest son Jonathan, who has Down Syndrome. Mr Liew said that at times, he would feel very stressed.

"It was quite a hectic time because in my family, my wife had a stroke and my mom has dementia," said Mr Liew. "And then on top of that, he was at home, so we had a hard time taking care of him. It's more of his shouting and his whining, and we were more concerned about what the neighbours will think."

In 2014, MINDS stepped in to help with therapy for Jonathan at his house. Since September this year, from 9am to 5.30pm on weekdays, Jonathan picks up skills to perform everyday tasks and socialise at the day activity centre.

"He is very happy at home," said Mr Liew. "All his energy is already spent in the day care, so when he comes back, he is quite subdued."

Mr Liew added that during the hours his son is at the centre, his family can take a break: "The helpers can tidy up the house, tidy up his room, and on our part, we can actually go for walks along the beach. That is very helpful."

Both facilities are housed in a two-storey building in Kembangan-Chai Chee Community Hub, within the new community cluster built by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

MINDS plans to open two more day activity centres in the west within the next two years, in Jurong East and Clementi.

The Government is also helping. For example, the Eunos Training & Development Centre was located on unused premises before it was converted into a hub for voluntary welfare organisations.

"Around the island, there will be pockets of parcels of land that are not being utilised or schools that are not being developed. There might be future plans, or if the plans are soft, is it conceivable that we could explore similar programmes like this? Certainly, on MSF's part, we are keen to explore that, but obviously we need to work with MND (Ministry of National Development) and URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) as well," said Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.

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The building also houses the office of MINDS' home-based care services, a two-year pilot programme started by MSF to help those with intellectual disability get therapy and other services. The programme is now into its first year and currently serves 15 clients.

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