Alan Soh aka Humourboi

I am my own columnist, publishing my thoughts!


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Inclusiveness. Perception.

A recent survey commissioned by Lien Foundation reveals that in these 1000+ respondents, only 1 in 10 Singaporeans is confident of interacting with a child with special needs. 50% of the adults polled are comfortable with having a child with special needs in their children’s class. And finally, only 8% of the people polled are willing to make a child with special needs feel welcomed.

What does it say about us? Why? Why this discomfort? Is it because of misconception, pre-judgement or stereo-typing? Thinking that people with special needs among us are “stupid”, “unable to contribute to society”, “always depending on others for help”, “can’t achieve much in life” or “better not to be seen and heard”? Why are there Singaporeans not walking the talk about inclusiveness in the Lion City?

In my course of work, my interactions with Singaporeans with special needs often made me go awe. Because I discovered some of them have hidden talents. Most importantly, these people are easy to get along with. They are very friendly people. I feel at ease talking to them.

We should focus at what these people can do, NOT what they cannot do. Like anyone of us, some of them are born with different gifts. From there, we can redesign job-scopes to cater to their strengths. They are a hidden pool of potential talents, if we give them opportunities to develop their abilities. They are raw diamonds.

I always believe disability happens only if I am disabled in the mindset, not my physical limitations. Of course people are entitled to their own opinions at the end of the day.
This is beyond my control.

At the end of the day, it is about our perceptions. How we see this special group of people. It is a matter of our willingness to understand these fellow Singaporeans with special needs.

Let us open our hearts and minds.  They might just surprise you with their abilities. 🙂

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Some post-Budget 2012 thoughts

Enhancing our Singapore Transport System

(i)         Boosting Bus Capacity by 800 buses over next 5 years, or a 20% increase – Government will provide funding for 550 buses while the public bus operators will add another 250 buses.

(ii)        Revisions to Vehicle Tax Regime – replace the Green Vehicle Rebate Scheme (GVR) with a new Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme, or CEVS

(iii)      Special Diesel Tax for Euro V Vehicles to encourage the adoption of new and cleaner diesel technologies

(iv)      Removal of Additional Transfer Fee (ATF)

Thoughts:

I am glad to see that our Government have had looked into having more buses, catering to the growing demands of commuters in the coming years.However our transport operators have earned quite hefty profits in recent years, hence I see that it should be the public transport operators themselves who should foot the funding for the purchases of buses.

Still worried about another possible hike in transport fares 1 or 2 years later from now. We should seriously look into matter of nationalizing our public transport services.

Providing the Best Care for our Seniors

1. Expand our healthcare capacity

(i)         Increase the number of acute hospital beds by about 30%, or 1,900 beds by 2020

(ii)        Increase the number of community hospital beds by 1,800 by 2020

(iii)      Double the capacity in long term care services by 2020 including nursing homes, home-based health and social care services, day care and rehabilitation facilities, and Senior Activity Centres.

(iv)      Improve access to polyclinics and introduce new models of care, such as Medical Centres that provide specialist outpatient services in the community.

Thoughts:

Our Singapore population is fast ageing, hence it is likely that we will see even more aged citizens going to hospital for medical services in future years. Yes, more hospital beds. This is a good move.

Yes, there should be more dedicated medical services for our elderly citizens. It is important these services are made affordable for them.

Having said that, to avoid further cost burden in healthcare services in future, we need to start heavily emphasis the importance of healthy lifestyle among senior citizens now. Encourage active ageing, not sick ageing. Am I right?

2. Enhance affordability in our healthcare

(i)       Increase subsidies in our Community Hospitals

  1. 75% subsidy for lower-income patients will receive a 75% government subsidy
  2. 20% to 50% subsidy for those above the median income, who previously did not receive any subsidy

(ii)     Raise subsidies for nursing homes, day care and rehabilitation facilities and home-based care packages so that more in the middle-income group can benefit.

(iii)    A $120 grant per month to families hiring a foreign domestic helper to help care for elderly family members who have severe dementia, or are immobile and unable to care for themselves

(iv)   Subsidise home modifications such as grab bars and anti-slip treatment for bathroom tiles

(v)     Absorb GST for subsidised patients in Long Term Care sector including community Hospitals to nursing homes and the range of home-care services.

Thoughts:

Good move. I like the part about subsidizing home modifications to make our homes safe for senior citizens.

The $120 monthly grant slightly helps in families hiring a foreign domestic helper to care for an elderly family member who is unable to care for himself/herself. Given our increasingly living costs, it would be good if this grant amount can be increased to say, $200 or $250.

I suggest domestic helpers with right attitude be assessed and be properly trained with the necessary care-giving skills before the monthly grant is given to the families.

To make healthcare further affordable, it will be ideal if no GST tax is imposed for all essential healthcare services for all Singapore citizens. =)

Supporting Singaporeans with Disabilities

1. Pre-school Years

(i)         Increase places in centres for children who need intensive early intervention.

(ii)        Development Support Programme (in mainstream pre-school classrooms) – provide learning support and therapy intervention to children with mild speech, language and learning delays [about 2,000 children to benefit]

(iii)       Enhancement to Special Education (SPED) schools.

Thoughts: 

Great. It is a big policy change with the heart to help these children having an easier start in life.

It is certainly a good move to integrate children with mild disabilities with others in mainstream pre-school classrooms. In my own viewpoint, it is also a good opportunity to expose normal kids, cultivating the perception to “look at each and every individual as equal, and care for others who are physically challenged” at a young tender age.  =)

2. Supporting employment

(i)         Extend Special Employment Credit to employers who hire SPED graduates, regardless of age

  1. Get credit of 16% of employee’s wages (2x that for older workers)

(ii)        Extend Workfare Income Supplement Scheme to all SPED graduates who work, even if they are below 35 years olds, and double the Handicapped Earned Income Relief for all persons with disabilities.

Thoughts:

It is important that we help fellow disabled Singaporeans to find employment, so that they can able to support themselves independently, in the event if their parents or caregivers are no longer around one day.

Good move, as it encourages more employers in Singapore to hire them. =)

Uplifting Low-income Families

1. More support for children from low-income households

(i)         Pre-school subsidies

  1. Introduce a new, per capita household income criterion (PCI) for subsidies

(ii)        MOE Financial Assistance Scheme

  1. Help more students benefit from the MOE Financial Assistance Scheme by raising the household income ceiling from $1,500 to $2,500 per month. It will mean that 40,000 more students, or twice the original number, will be fully subsidised for their school fees, uniforms and textbooks, and receive a 75% subsidy on their exam fees

(iii)      Provide a further top-up to School Advisory and Management Committees of up to $15,000 per year for the next three years. This will give the committees greater certainty of government support and help them introduce new schemes in the school – such as transport assistance for students

(iv)      Enhance Student Care Fee Assistance (SCFA) Scheme to benefit more families

  1. Extend subsidies to a larger group of families than those who qualify for the MOE Financial Assistance Scheme. Subsidies for student care will be extended to families with up to $3,500 in monthly household income. A family earning say $2,500 per month would typically see the amount they pay for student care reduced from $200 to $80 per month

(v)       Top-ups for Education & Social Support

  1. a $200 million top-up to the Edusave Endowment Fund to help all children enjoy meaningful enrichment programmes
  2. a $200 million top-up to the ComCare Endowment Fund to support families in need
  3. a total of $10 million to our Self-Help Groups and the CCC ComCare Fund

(vi)      Broadening Opportunities for Every Child

  1. Not just about helping families cover their fees and costs in school, also providing is a breadth of exposure to every child regardless of family background in a way that few school systems overseas do. We have been building this up across the school landscape, so as to allow every Singaporean child to discover what they like, and what they are good at.

Thoughts:

Good move. In order to truly talk about “broadening opportunities for each and every child”, I just wonder if our government can also provide further help in helping lower-income families with disabled children who are enrolled in special schools receiving education?

Such parents may also be burdened with the costs of special education.

I personally feel that we also need to help move these disabled schooling children up the social mobility ladder.

Ministry of Education, what do you say?