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Budget 2017: More support for people with disabilities and those with mental health conditions

In delivering his Budget statement on Monday (Feb 20), Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat speaks of the need to foster a caring and inclusive society. 

SINGAPORE: The Government will provide more support for people with disabilities and those with mental health conditions in this year’s Budget.

In his Budget statement delivered on Monday (Feb 20), Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat emphasised the need for everyone to build an inclusive society.

“All of us can play a part in our communities,” he said. “All of us have something to offer, be it time, expertise or the extra attention, to care for each other.”

To that end, he announced a number of initiatives aimed to help those with disabilities and mental health conditions.

THIRD ENABLING MASTERPLAN LAUNCHED FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

Stronger support for people with disabilities will come in the form of the third Enabling Masterplan. Enabling Masterplans are five-year national plans to support people with disabilities and their caregivers.

Under the masterplan, which was put together by a committee of private and public sector representatives, training programmes for special education students will be extended to those with moderate intellectual and multiple disabilities. Currently, these programmes, which are meant to prepare graduates from special education schools for employment, are available to those with mild intellectual disabilities and autism.

A Disability Caregiver Support Centre will also be set up to provide caregiver training and peer support. The centre will also work with Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) to pilot programmes catering to caregivers of newly-diagnosed people with disabilities, added Mr Heng.

He said the Government expects to spend around S$400 million per year on initiatives supporting people with disabilities. This includes existing initiatives.

More details will be shared by the Minister for Social and Family Development at the Committee of Supply (COS) debates, he added.

INCREASED SPENDING ON COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH

Mr Heng also spoke of the need to rally around those with mental health conditions, including dementia. “Mental health issues may not be easy to talk about, but we can make good progress when the community comes together,” he said.

Hence, the Government will spend an additional S$160 million on community mental health efforts, he said.

This includes resourcing VWOs to set up more community-based teams to support those in need, as well as educating the public on mental health issues.

The number of Dementia Friendly Communities will also be expanded, added Mr Heng. These communities are networks comprising members of the public and businesses who are trained to look out for those with symptoms of dementia, and offer help.

The National Council of Social Service will also lead efforts to integrate people with mental health issues at the workplace and in wider society, he added.

The Minister for Health will elaborate further on these efforts at the COS debates, he said.

ADDITIONAL FUNDING TO STRENGTHEN COMMUNITY BONDS

Going beyond supporting families and those with greater needs, Mr Heng said the Budget also aims to strengthen community bonds. To achieve this, the Government will provide additional funding, he announced.

Mr Heng explained that the Government has committed more than S$180 million of funding to the VWOs-Charities Capability Fund. This has helped around 400 VWOs and charities, he added.

He said that over the next five years, there will be additional funding of up to S$100 million in total to further develop the capabilities of VWOs and charities.

There will also be an additional S$6 million grant for self-help groups over the next two years, Mr Heng added.  

The Cultural Matching Fund, which provides dollar-for-dollar matching for donations to cultural institutions, will also be topped up by S$150 million.

MORE SUPPORT FOR COMMUNITY SPORTS AND SPORTS EXCELLENCE

Citing the importance of sports in bringing society together, Mr Heng added that the Government will also do more to make it easier for Singaporeans to participate in sports. More than S$50 million has been set aside to support community sports, he said.

The Sports-in-Precinct Programme will be expanded so that more Singaporeans can play sports near their home, he added. Under the programme, new facilities and spaces for sports and recreation are being created in neighbourhoods.

The SportCares Programme, which encourages disadvantaged youth to discover their strengths through sports, will also be expanded, he said.

The minister added that the Government will commit an additional S$50 million in grants over the next five years to help aspiring athletes reach their full potential. “This will build a wider base of support for Team Singapore,” he said. Up to S$50 million more will also be provided for one-to-one matching of sports donations.

He said more details will be released by the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at the COS debates.