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Govt working with VWOs on S'pore therapist pool

The government is working with voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) to ramp up the pool of therapists in Singapore.

SINGAPORE: The government is working with voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) to ramp up the pool of therapists in Singapore.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the National Council of Social Service are currently working with the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) and Thye Hwa Kwan Moral Charities to fund and expand their respective Therapy Hubs.

The target number of new therapists is still being worked out.

Responding to queries from Channel NewsAsia, the Ministry of Social and Family Development said it is currently assessing the social service sector's overall demand for therapy.

Mr Tharman, who is an MP for Jurong GRC, was speaking at the official opening of the SPD centre in Jurong on Saturday, which provides therapy and learning support to children with special needs.

The SPD centre celebrated its official opening with some fanfare, including performances by the children and volunteers, and a mini void deck "fun fair" -- complete with popcorn and picture booths.

SPD's Acting Director for Services Joyce Wong said demand for therapy has increased in recent years because of the country's ageing population, as well as more frequent and earlier identification of children with special needs.

Since April, tighter regulation in the form of a new law requiring therapists to register with the Allied Health Professions Council also means not all could continue practising, and observers said this will add to the manpower crunch in the profession.

One responce is SPD's Therapy Hub programme, which recruits and trains therapists as a resource for other VWOs.

It has trained 50 therapists since 2005 and 20 of them have been rotated to other VWOs to serve stints of about one year.

Mr Tharman said: "It's a collaborative approach, a very important one because it's a way in which the social services sector can attract and retain talent.

"The therapists enjoy greater career development by being part of a larger network of VWOs, and being exposed to a wider range of VWOs and clients. This rotation of therapists across different VWOs has spurred the spread of best practices and higher standards of care."

The SPD centre in Jurong is one of four run by the Society for the Physically Disabled in different parts of Singapore. All together, they serve 4,600 people of all ages with disabilities, offering services like rehabilitation, training, day care, and social support.

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