Govt studying feasibility of setting up hubs to train people with disabilities nearer their homes

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam speaking at the book launch commemorating the Autism Resource Centre's 20 Years of Service at the Enabling Village on Oct 31, 2017.
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam speaking at the book launch commemorating the Autism Resource Centre's 20 Years of Service at the Enabling Village on Oct 31, 2017.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - People with disabilities may soon find it more convenient to go for job training and work as the Ministry of Social and Family Development studies the feasibility of setting up employment centres in residential neighbourhoods.

The centres are meant to train and offer jobs to people with disabilities.

Speaking at the launch of a book to mark the 20th anniversary of the Autism Resource Centre (ARC) on Tuesday (Oct 31), Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said such hubs would solve a practical problem.

"This simplifies daily commuting, which is a practical issue for persons with disabilities, and builds on local networks with employers. Local collaboration in a neighbourhood has many positive spin-offs, builds relationships... and can help both persons with disabilities and their caregivers in a different and very practical way," he said.

"We can't be everywhere, because we need a certain critical mass, but I think we can have it in more parts of Singapore."

Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, said the Government's study draws from the experience of the Enabling Village, which officially opened in December 2015. It is near Redhill MRT station and has facilities such as the ARC's Employment and Employability Centre, where people with autism receive job training. Some of them go on to work in the NTUC FairPrice supermarket and restaurants in the Enabling Village.

ARC president Denise Phua, who is also an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, said having more of such hubs would be a good move, "provided that there are enough jobs at a certain site to enable us to set up training systems in the companies and deploy job coaches".

Homemaker Jennifer Tay, who is in her early 50s and has a son with autism, said that the feasibility of the idea would depend on the availability of resources, noting that Singapore's transport network already makes many workplaces accessible for people with disabilities.

The book launched by the ARC on Tuesday is titled Making A Difference Together - Parents And Professionals In Partnership. It chronicles efforts to improve lives of people with autism and the history of the ARC.

The centre's adviser Ho Ching, who is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's wife, wrote the book's foreword and attended the book launch. More than 100 people, including donors, parents and beneficiaries, attended the event.