Helping those with acquired disabilities

Two schemes offer aid, including rehabilitation, job training, job matching and other pre-employment help

Last Friday, technician Tan Hwee Boon, 50, had his hands amputated after a bout of food poisoning and its treatment led to gangrene. He also needs to have his feet amputated in about two weeks.

Despondent, the father of two teenagers had told The New Paper that he was not sure what he could do for a living.

People who acquire disabilities halfway through life and can no longer do the same job, such as Mr Tan, may draw comfort from two schemes set up in the last year or so to help them.

The Transitional Programme for Employment was piloted in June last year and aimed at people below 50 who have spinal cord injuries or strokes. The scheme is delivered by the SPD - formerly the Society for the Physically Disabled - and puts clients through rehabilitation, job training and counselling, and then job matching.

It has since taken in 63 clients and matched nine to jobs.

The other programme, iEnable, was launched in April last year and is helmed by SG Enable, a government-established agency formed to provide services for people with disabilities.

iEnable attaches a case manager to each client to help repair clients' confidence, support them emotionally, prepare them for job interviews, and get them a new job with an employer who understands their needs. It has taken in 51 clients and helped 19 get jobs.

While there are no national figures on people with acquired disabilities losing employment, SG Enable said there are about 300 patients suffering from spinal cord injuries and amputations discharged from hospitals every year.

Acquired disabilities can arise from severe stroke, traffic accidents, or diseases such as diabetes, which may require amputation. Those with new disabilities sometimes cannot carry out the same jobs. There were 6,567 stroke cases in 2013 and studies done in other countries show that only 20.7 per cent remained employed after a stroke, with half of these having had a change of jobs.

Depending on a person's financial situation, iEnable can help him get aid for his daily basic needs and offer pre-employment assistance such as buying new work clothes and helping with transport fees, training and job interviews.

iEnable currently relies on medical social workers from 10 public and community hospitals to refer clients with acquired disabilities to it.

"The range of jobs available is wide. They include PMET (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) positions, (and openings for) laboratory assistants, recruitment consultants, finance executives, administrative assistants, packers, cleaners and kitchen help," said Ms Ku Geok Boon, chief executive officer of SG Enable.

She said that SG Enable already has more than 200 jobs for people with disabilities listed in the Open Door Programme job portal.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2015, with the headline 'Helping those with acquired disabilities'. Print Edition | Subscribe