We thank Ms Elaine Tay for her suggestion to keep special education (Sped) schools open throughout the year to support parents in caring for their child (Give parents respite by keeping special needs schools open throughout the year, Jan 27).
The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) understand that the demands faced by caregivers of children with special educational needs can be challenging and that families need support.
Sped schools implement additional programmes during the school holidays to support caregivers in need of assistance. For example, Rainbow Centre (RC), the social service agency (SSA) that runs RC schools, works with allied professionals to conduct therapy sessions, as well as collaborates with external organisations and volunteers to organise holiday outings for students. SSAs also organise parent and sibling engagement activities, including workshops and camps where members provide mutual support by sharing experiences and advice. These communities are a vital source of reassurance for families.
Special student care centres, which provide before-and-after school care services for children with special educational needs, remain open throughout the school holidays. To improve affordability of these services, MSF enhanced the subsidies and lowered the out-of-pocket fees in July 2020. MSF will also be establishing more such centres.
Parents and caregivers can also tap community support networks such as CaringSG and a whole range of caregiver-led initiatives supported by SG Enable that support caregivers of persons with special needs. Caregivers can find relevant information such as respite options and contact details of support groups through SG Enable's Enabling Guide (https://www.enablingguide.sg), a first-stop resource portal for information on disability in Singapore. Caregivers can also e-mail email@example.com for more information. Volunteers may also step forward through signing up at giving.sg.
We agree with Ms Tay that caregivers need to have time away from caregiving. Through these and other initiatives, we hope to see more individuals and organisations come alongside caregivers to provide a circle of support, thus improving everyone's quality of life.
Lucy Toh, Divisional Director, Special Educational Needs Division
Ministry of Education
Lim Teck Kiat, Senior Director, Social Policy and Service Group
Ministry of Social and Family Development