More funds for students with severe disabilities

MOE expands education fund to better cater to students with disabilities in poly, ITE

Students with severe hearing, physical and visual disabilities will now get more help as they pursue their studies at polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).

They can now each receive up to $70,000 over the course of their studies, to buy assistive technology devices and support services, such as note-taking and signing interpretation.

Minister for Education (Higher Education & Skills) Ong Ye Kung announced the additional funding at a conference jointly organised by ITE and welfare group SPD yesterday.

It will be disbursed as part of a new high-needs category under the existing Ministry of Education Special Educational Needs (SEN) Fund, launched in 2014.

Said Mr Ong: "There are a handful of cases where the support required is far more acute. In view of these, MOE has decided to create a high-needs category under the SEN Fund, and provide greater support for these students."

Those with less severe physical impairments will continue receiving up to $5,000, and those with less severe hearing or visual disabilities will continue to receive up to $25,000. This is what students with severe disabilities were also entitled to previously.

  • $70k

    Maximum that students with severe disabilities can claim in support under the new scheme.

    $5k

    Maximum those with less severe physical disabilities can claim.

    $25k

    Maximum that those with less severe hearing or visual disabilities can claim.

Eligible recipients must be Singaporean, full-time students at a polytechnic or ITE, and be professionally certified to have severe physical or sensory impairment. Family income is not among the criteria.

SPD president Chia Yong Yong welcomed the new category, saying people with more serious needs will require a whole suite of services.

It is "extremely helpful" to recognise that people with special needs or disabilities have a spectrum of different limitations, she added.

Ms Jacqueline Toh, an SEN support officer at Republic Polytechnic, said it is useful to have different tiers of funding as students require different levels of support.

Since it was launched in April 2014, 60 students from the polytechnics and the ITE have benefited from the SEN Fund.

Ms Chia said there is now greater awareness of issues faced by people with disabilities.

"We are slowly witnessing a paradigm shift from avoidance and apathy to acceptance of persons with disabilities in our social and educational space," she added.

At the conference, Mr Ong also provided an update on the Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA).

He had previously announced that it would be expanded to cover training courses supported by SG Enable as well as other sheltered workshops approved by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

He said over 50 training courses can now be funded by the PSEA, ranging from those in IT to hospitality. Students with special educational needs can use their PSEA to attend SPD's training courses on digital tools and communication.

Yesterday's conference, entitled Inclusiveness: Innovations in Wellness, drew 400 people, including educators, academics, policymakers and caregivers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2017, with the headline 'More funds for students with severe disabilities'. Print Edition | Subscribe