More Caregiver-centric Help for Parents of Children with Special Needs | SPD - Singapore
More Caregiver-centric Help for Parents of Children with Special Needs
The recent sentencing of a mother, who had psychiatric issues, to jail for causing the tragic demise of her 9-year old son with special needs last year had raised questions about the care system for children with special needs and more importantly, the support for caregivers. SPD executive director Mr Abhimanyau Pal shares his thoughts on the importance of supporting caregivers in this letter to The Straits Times Forum which was published on 29 September.
We thank Ms Chen Hui Feng (“Raise awareness about kids with special needs”, 18 Sep 2014) and Ms Rachel Gan (“Improve structured help for parents of kids with special needs”, 18 Sep 2014) for highlighting the need for more help for parents of children with special needs.
Over the years, SPD and many voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) have worked closely with various ministries and we are glad to see much progress in the social service sector including in the provision of early intervention programmes.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has at many times stressed the importance of building an inclusive society and enabling everyone, especially the weak and the elderly and people with disabilities, to enjoy the fruits of progress. The Government has announced in its Budget this year that it would raise the quantum of the subsidies and extend subsidies to cover 80 percent of households that have children in the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC). Parents of children with disabilities will also get higher dependent child relief.
There have been significant improvements in early intervention and children services in terms of capacity and capabilities. The number of EIPIC centres has increased from 10 in 2007 to 17 in 2014. We have also noticed increased resources channelled to develop the manpower capabilities of the sector.
While measures are in place to help children with special needs, more could still be done, for instance in providing greater assistance to children with severe disabilities and more respite care and support for caregivers.
Having to constantly give emotional support and physical care could be challenging and stressful for caregivers at times. Instead of programme-centric caregiver support which tends to take a one-size-fits-all approach, perhaps the social service sector could look more closely into individual caregiver’s needs and develop programmes that are more caregiver-centric. VWOs and social workers could help to develop smaller-scale and more closely-knitted communities and peer caregiver support groups that could address specific needs of caregivers.
Parents play a critical role in developing confidence in their children with special needs to participate and integrate socially. SPD will continue to engage parents and encourage them to share their feedback, as well as work with other VWOs and relevant ministries to serve our children with special needs better. In doing so, we hope to see improvements in the services offered to children with special needs and their caregivers in the long run.