North East District residents with intellectual disabilities to work in community under pilot scheme

(From left) North East District Mayor Desmond Choo, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, musician Joshua German and Tampines GRC MP Koh Poh Koon at the launch of Shaping Hearts 2021 on Nov 13, 2021. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - A new programme to be launched next year will create employment for people with intellectual disabilities in community facilities.

By the first half of 2022, about 30 individuals who live in the North East District will be employed in places such as community clubs and gardens, the district's mayor, Mr Desmond Choo, announced on Saturday (Nov 13).

"Rather than working in sheltered workshops or certain retail outlets, we will bring (persons with intellectual disabilities) such employment opportunities within the community... so that residents can experience working with them," he added.

The district includes Aljunied, Sengkang and Tampines.

Mr Choo noted that since people with intellectual disabilities may need structured routine, their job roles will include supporting facilities, manning certain areas, doing environmental sanitisation and basic landscaping work.

Mr Choo was speaking to the media on Saturday on the sidelines of the launch of an art festival that features the artwork and talent of more than 150 artists and performers with physical disabilities and special needs.

The pilot programme - developed by the North East Community Development Council (CDC) - will employ and provide comprehensive on-the-job training for the 30 individuals and place them in suitable roles, paving their way for long-term careers in the community.

The North East CDC is currently working with grassroots organisations and social service agencies to develop structured training packages for the beneficiaries who will join the pilot. Some corporates are in talks with the CDC as well.

Mr Choo added: "We believe that if this pilot is successful, it will encourage more corporates, more social service agencies and community partners to give such opportunities to residents with intellectual disabilities. So we want to be a trailblazer in this regard."

Beyond raising awareness about differently abled people, the North East CDC aims to build an inclusive workforce and community so that these individuals will gain meaningful employment, he said.

If the pilot progresses smoothly, it will be scaled up. More details about the programme will be announced next year.

The pilot was slated to start this year, but it was postponed to 2022 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, said Mr Choo.

The two-week-long art festival at Our Tampines Hub - called Shaping Hearts 2021 - was launched by Mr Choo and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Saturday.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat (right) with artist Joshua Tang at the Shaping Hearts 2021 at Our Tampines Hub on Nov 13, 2021. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

In his opening speech, Mr Heng highlighted the roles of CDCs in supporting communities financially affected by the pandemic. The CDC Vouchers Scheme, for instance, helps to defray the cost of living for lower-income households.

It was announced last month that about 1.3 million Singaporean households will be receiving their next tranche of $100 CDC vouchers digitally in a few months.

Mr Heng said: "I'm glad to see the CDCs continue to play a valuable role in these times - forging partnerships and uniting people for common causes, giving support, and continuing to build a sense of togetherness and community."

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