Community groups play critical role in helping those in need, says PM Lee

Volunteers from public health-care group SingHealth, as well as beneficiaries from the SPD (formerly the Society for the Physically Disabled), preparing race packs for The Straits Times Run at the Hub. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Volunteers from public health-care group SingHealth, as well as beneficiaries from the SPD (formerly the Society for the Physically Disabled), preparing race packs for The Straits Times Run at the Hub. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Even as the Government steps up its social support efforts, community groups in Singapore retain a critical role in helping those in need, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday.

Groups such as the SPD, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, fulfill four main functions, he said in a speech at the SPD's anniversary dinner at Fullerton Hotel.

They mobilise passionate volunteers, raise funds from the community, tackle the actual problems of specific groups in need and strengthen the bonds among people.

But beyond these tangible contributions, such groups are also a reminder of what Singapore's society should aspire to be: a place where "every Singaporean counts" and where the disabled or less privileged inspire others "with their grit, determination and passion", said Mr Lee.

"Our society should value every person, no matter who he is, or what he was born with or without, because every person matters to us."

The SPD, formerly known as the Society for the Physically Disabled, has done much to empower people with disabilities, he noted.

It provides aid to some 4,700 people with special needs and physical disabilities. It helps them pursue their studies and passions, provides rehabilitation and day care, trains them for jobs and supports their employment.

Together with groups like the SPD, the Government is building a more inclusive society and has launched a series of measures to help those who are disadvantaged and disabled, he added.

It has introduced the Enabling Masterplan - a blueprint on policies and programmes for people with disabilities - and extended Medishield to cover children born with congenital and neonatal conditions.

The Government is also improving special education schools, giving more support to early intervention services for pre-school children, and helping people with disablities get around by enhancing physical access and offering transport subsidies.

These moves help ensure that those with disabilities can lead a dignified and confident life, and have the opportunities to succeed, said Mr Lee.

He cited the example of Nominated Member of Parliament Chia Yong Yong, a corporate lawyer and the president of SPD, who uses a wheelchair. Mr Lee said he is confident she will inspire others with disabilities to contribute to society.