Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Plans to help disabled from infancy

Older children with developmental problems may have their condition detected earlier if the Government accepts a proposal submitted yesterday.

One of 41 recommendations in a five-year master plan, the proposal calls for the funding of a screening programme targeted at children who are nine months, 18 months and 24-30 months old.

Currently, children who are more than 18 months old are not screened until they turn three years old.

The master plan - entitled Enabling Masterplan 2012-2016 - was drafted by a 32-member steering committee chaired by Mr Chua Chin Kiat and was submitted to the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports yesterday.

It aims to better meet the needs of the disabled from infancy, and builds on the previous master plan which had focused more on education and employment for the disabled.

Mr Chua said the plan seeks to build an "inclusive society" in which everyone, regardless of his physical or mental ability, can function as an integral member.

The plan aims to enable the disabled, allowing them to be independent and become "who they want to be", he said.

Referring to the proposal for screening children, Associate Professor Winnie Goh said that children develop their language, social, and basic- learning skills between 24 months and 30 months of age.

"This is the critical period in which to detect any developmental problems," said Prof Goh, who headed the early-intervention sub-committee.

To improve support for adults with disabilities, the committee recommended the development of group homes in the community.

Such group homes could consist of rental flats housing disabled people who have little or no family support.

Each of them would live in the flat with two or three other disabled people, and get regular support from private or voluntary welfare organisations.

One pilot group home for the disabled has been set up in Bedok West.

Mr Chua said public transport can be made more accessible to people with minor disabilities.

He added that a specialised transport system for those with higher needs should also be considered.

Acting Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing said some recommendations can be implemented immediately, while others would require more time and resources.

He said the Government has considered some of the recommendations, such as those for employment and transport, and updates will be announced in next week's Committee of Supply debates.

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