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Youth Vibes

The Budget: Helping Singaporeans With Disabilities, And Assisting Children From Low-Income Households

Feedback to the Singapore Budget 2012 in cyberspace has been quite positive, especially since social assistance and the regulation of the inflow of foreign workers featured heavily (which, I presume, signals that the administration is cognisant of on-the-ground sentiments). Nonetheless, some individuals – from Opposition politicians to socio-political commentators – have rightfully questioned the potential effectiveness of the initiatives, and the possible ramifications upon smaller businesses or enterprises.

This time round, the assortment of proposals does help Singaporeans with disabilities become more independent, with the providence of tools – not handouts per se – to empower individuals for the fulfilment of ambitions.

I thought it would be interesting to focus on some of the other aspects that may not have been as outstanding, but hold equal significance: there are, helping Singaporeans with disabilities, and assisting children from low-income households.

Helping Singaporeans With Disabilities

– Introduction of a new programme to provide learning support and therapy interventions.
– Extension of the Special Employment Credit to employers who hire Special Education (SPED) graduates. The Workfare Income Supplement scheme and the Handicapped Earned Income Relief have also been extended.
– They will also be eligible for the same enhanced care facilities that older Singaporeans will receive.

1. The Budget, in the previous years, has been criticised for neglecting Singaporeans with disabilities; in the past (here), the assistance was perceived to be inadequate, and not comprehensive enough. This time round, the assortment of proposals does help Singaporeans with disabilities become more independent, with the providence of tools – not handouts per se – to empower individuals for the fulfilment of ambitions.

2. Before the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) expounds on the specifics of further recommendations, there are a few areas that could be taken into consideration: diversifying public transportation, and making it more accessible; introducing concessions or fare discounts; rendering public spaces and general infrastructure more disability-friendly et cetera. Physical barriers should be removed.

3. Economic independence is of utmost importance; even though Singapore has chosen not to adopt a system of quotas (in some European countries, it is mandatory for companies to ensure a particular percentage of disabled people in their workforce), two things can be done besides incentivising employers to do so. First, MCYS can broaden – and raise awareness of – a diversity of regular employment opportunities; second, work closely with stakeholders to match-make disabled Singaporeans with ideal job openings.

4. More importantly, the challenge of stigma should be addressed. MCYS should work more intensively with non-government organisations (NGO), many of which are already doing a fair but, to demystify disability and actively incorporate people with disability into society. Changing traditional, incorrect perceptions is of utmost importance.

5. With education, students with disabilities should be encouraged to further their studies in integrated classrooms, unless the severity of their conditions prevents them from doing so. In both instances, more work has to be committed by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to heighten awareness, as well as to gradually increase capacities. Of course, this means that infrastructural projects would have to be extended in education institutions (refer to point 3), but I believe that the intrinsic benefits would be well-worth the efforts.

It is not realistic to expect the administration to level the playing field for every kid; however, it is possible to give these students as much as possible right from the get-go.

Assisting Children From Low-Income Households

– Pre-school subsidies, with a new, per capita household income criterion (PCI).
– Raising the household income ceiling from $1,500 to $2,500 per month.
– Extend subsidies to a larger group of families than those who qualify for the MOE Financial Assistance Scheme.
– Top-ups to the Edusave Endowment Fund, ComCare Endowment Fund, Self-Help Groups and the CCC ComCare Fund.

1. Against a background of parents scrambling for top-notch tuition services, compelling head-start programmes and propositions that children from low-income households were consequently disadvantaged, it is timely for the institution of new benchmarks to render help more holistic. These improvements are necessary, given the fundamental and sustainable importance of having a good education.

The subsidies and financial adjustments should also ease fiscal pressures within families, especially with the rising costs of living.

2. The importance of having a quality pre-school education cannot be understated (here), and the MOE should adopt a two-pronged approach: first, encouraging more parents to commit their children into pre-school facilities for the development of linguistic and knowledge-acquisition skills; second, to raise the standards of centre-based teaching-learning pedagogies in nurseries and kindergartens.

It is not realistic to expect the administration to level the playing field for every kid; however, it is possible to give these students as much as possible right from the get-go.

3. There could be the introduction of special pre-school education programmes, involving both parents and the kid, that are tailored to low-income families or households. With the inculcation of cognitive skills and other relevant advantages, this will ensure that students do not get overwhelmed when they start at primary schools.

4. Some low-income parents also get anxious when they do not have the abilities to expose their children to experiences beyond the academic-scholastic sphere, such as in the arts, music or sports. Existing community centres and select pre-schools do scratch the surface, but it would be constructive if some resources could be dedicated to help further these relevant endeavours. This could help identify talents from a young age, and equip them with the necessary tools for future success.

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About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.

Discussion

10 thoughts on “The Budget: Helping Singaporeans With Disabilities, And Assisting Children From Low-Income Households

  1. Hi Kwan,

    I would like to see more direct assistance to the companies that employ persons with disabilities such as subsidies and grant. Have they amended the building code to make it compulsory for all new buildings to disability friendly? Perhaps also an incentive to older buildings so that they would add on disability friendly features.

    As for education, I can tell that kids are being ‘judged’ much earlier than decades ago. Like primary school can be very competitive now. That said, I have no solutions as every corner I turn seems to bring me back to the maze.

    Cheers.

    Posted by Unbranded BreadnButter | February 20, 2012, 10:23 am
    • Hi there!

      Thanks for dropping by!

      1. I think the current Budget does address the first point you raised, of having more subsidies and grant (with the extension of the Special Employment Credit). Given that we do not practise a system of quotas, your suggestions do make a lot of sense. Besides the development of infrastructure (so that employers do not have an excuse to turn away capable, albeit disabled, Singaporeans), we could do more to: i. further incentivise, if the current measures are perceived to be inadequate; ii. address stigmas; and iii. work closely with stakeholders to match-make disabled Singaporeans with ideal job openings.

      2. It is quite sad that our kids are judged on their academic ability per se. The sadder thing is for parents to subscribe to this belief; but that being said, it is difficult to go against the existing culture of standardised examinations and a grade-centred education system.

      I hope more can be done to help kids from lower-income families, because the lack of money (and access to resources) should not stop anyone from pursuing their passions. My greatest worry is this: what if a child is actually a prodigy in the arts or music, or an excellent sportsman? If he does not enjoy the privileges to pursue these focuses from a young age, are we running the risk of surpressing these abilities forever?

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | February 20, 2012, 12:40 pm
  2. Hi Jin Yao,

    Interesting post but I wonder why the current budget continues with the old discriminatory policy where able bodied children are NOT means tested for subsidies for their education while disabled children are singled out for means testing for educational subsidies??? The current budget does not address this fundamental problem. I guess it is part of our national eugenic belief that if a child is born with disabilities, then it is somehow their fault or their parent’s fault (see John 9) and we as a society should not try to help them or we would breed a “welfare mentality” and encourage more parents to have children with congenital disabilities. Sad….

    Posted by Paul | February 20, 2012, 2:28 pm
    • Hi Paul!

      I’m afraid I’m not too familiar with what you have expounded on, so it wouldn’t be fair to give my take. Besides, the Budget – I hope – covered the basic recommendations; this post was in anticipation of the COS that would be released by MCYS in the next few weeks to follow-up on this.

      With your concern (not sure if I have interpreted it correctly), are you primarily worried that disabled children would be stigmatised for their disabilities?

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | February 20, 2012, 10:39 pm

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