SINGAPORE: A “Caregivers’ Space” and a simplified application process for foreign domestic worker assistance schemes will be launched to increase support for caregivers of people with disabilities, announced the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) on Wednesday (Mar 7).
“The role of a caregiver is critical but challenging … There is much to be gained from the support and solidarity of fellow caregivers,” said Senior Parliamentary Secretary Faishal Ibrahim. “To facilitate this, SG Enable will be setting up a Caregivers’ Space at the Enabling Village by the end of the year.”
It will serve as a meeting place for peer support groups, training, and engagement sessions by voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) as well as community partners.
“We want caregivers to come, learn from the experiences of fellow caregivers, and get advice and moral support as they walk their caregiving journey,” said Assoc Prof Faishal.
SG Enable will also work with VWOs and stakeholders in social and healthcare sectors, for instance to better inform and advise caregivers on the support services and self-care skills available to them. The SG Enable website will also be improved in its provision of information on disability schemes and services, for caregivers to identify and access the support needed by their care recipients.
SG Enable will further work with existing caregiver support services to promote the adoption of innovative approaches to better help caregivers take care of their well-being and care for their loved ones.
MSF intends for this support network to reach up to 2,000 caregivers over the next five years.
The Special Needs Trust Company, which works with caregivers on the long-term financial needs of their dependants, is also part of this network. It has served more than 500 families since its inception 10 years ago, said Assoc Prof Faishal, and will be increasing outreach efforts to caregivers through the mass media and events, as well as by building networks with the likes of financial advisors.
It aims to support around 1,700 caregivers by 2021 - a 70 per cent increase from the 1,000 it supports today.
With more caregivers remaining in the workforce, the demand for day care may grow, noted Assoc Prof Faishal. “We will add another 200 Day Activity Centre places this year for adults with disabilities.”
EASIER FOR CAREGIVERS TO EMPLOY HELP
To make the application process for foreign domestic workers more convenient and accessible for both persons with disabilities and their caregivers, MSF and the Ministry of Health will include the Client Assessment Form as an alternative assessment tool.
This will determine the level of support needed by persons with cognitive impairments such as intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorder to perform four Activities of Daily Living (ADLs): Mobility, feeding, toileting and personal grooming and hygiene.
The form can then be used to support applications for a concession on the foreign domestic worker levy, and a grant to defray the cost of hiring the domestic worker.
The former enables caregivers of people with disabilities who need help with at least one ADL to pay a concessionary levy rate of S$60 monthly instead of S$265. The grant, meanwhile, provides S$120 monthly to caregivers of people with disabilities who need help with at least three ADLs. The grant is means-tested.
From Apr 1, the form can be done by registered physiotherapists or occupational therapists at special education schools or disability care services attended by the person with disability. The rest may approach one of three therapy hub service providers under AWWA, SPD and Thye Hua Kwan.
“We estimate that about 1,000 persons with disabilities and their caregivers could benefit from this,” said Assoc Prof Faishal.
ON AGEING, EMPLOYEES WITH DISABILITIES
Separately, Assoc Prof Faishal also pointed to MSF’s work to encourage Singaporeans to be adequately prepared for when loved ones lose mental capacity - by making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).
This legal document allows a donor who is at least 21 years of age to voluntarily appoint one or more donees to make decisions and act on his behalf should he lose mental capacity one day.
“We have made it much more convenient and affordable to do so, by simplifying the application process, and waiving the application fee,” said Assoc Prof Faishal. “Since then, the number of LPA applications has tripled from 4,600 in 2014 to 13,900 in 2017.”
A new online LPA system will be introduced by 2021 and should cut down processing time, he added.
Assoc Prof Faishal also revealed that the public sector has hired more than 70 new employees with disabilities in the past two years. “More employees with disabilities have also been hired in the private sector,” he added. “Over the past two years, 2,700 new employees and over 1,300 new employers have benefitted from the Special Employment Credit which supports employers in hiring employees with disabilities.”