More social inclusion needed for vulnerable groups in Singapore: Study

A caregiver pushing an elderly woman on a wheelchair.
A caregiver pushing an elderly woman on a wheelchair. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

SINGAPORE - Many people with disabilities and those recovering from mental health issues do not feel socially included, though the majority feel accepted in society.

These are the findings of the first large-scale study on the quality of life (QOL) of vulnerable groups in Singapore, based on the perceptions of people from these groups, conducted by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) last year.

Half of people with disabilities surveyed perceived themselves as lacking autonomy in making big decisions in life and having control over their life.

Two in five of those recovering from mental health issues worry about their future prospects in life.

The study surveyed nearly 3,500 Singaporeans and permanent residents aged 18 years and above, including about 2,500 senior citizens, people with disabilities, and people recovering from mental health issues and seeking help.

The study was based on the World Health Organisation's (WHO) QOL framework, which comprises six areas - physical, level of independence, social relationships, environment, psychological and personal beliefs.

It also found that senior citizens who participated in sports or physical recreational activities were slightly more than two times more likely to have better QOL.

Researchers used the WHO's definition of QOL to guide them, which states that QOL refers to an individual's perceptions of their positions in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live, and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns.

"The study shows us what directions we need to take. (People with disabilities) actually know what they want," said Ms Fazlin Abdullah, director of the advocacy and research team at NCSS, adding that this could come as a surprise to some outside the community. "People should now start accepting that." 

She added that a new five-year road map for the social service sector, called the Social Service Strategic Thrusts, will be announced next month.

While researchers said the study is not meant to provide specific recommendations, they said that people can support and empower individuals from these three groups by seeing them as people first, with aspirations and abilities, which can then help them to achieve their potential in areas such as employment, education and in the community.

The QOL study is slated to be published in September and can help guide the development of programmes and research.