New one-stop hub offers services for people with intellectual disabilities and their caregivers

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said that spaces like the hub are important so that those with intellectual disabilities can have greater support closer to their homes. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

SINGAPORE - People with intellectual disabilities and their caregivers can now tap an array of healthcare and social support services all under one roof as part of efforts to ensure no one misses out on help they need.

Called Minds Hub (Central), the facility in Queen’s Road offers services such as healthcare support, diagnosis and assessment services, employment support and befriending for those with intellectual disabilities, among others.

It will also offer caregivers a place to meet people and form new networks, get peer support and access to resources on financial planning, said the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore, or Minds, in a statement on Wednesday.

Those who are keen to apply for a deputyship for those they care for can also do it at the hub, the statement added.

Minds was appointed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development to provide services for the Assisted Deputyship Application Programme, which allows caregivers to apply to make legal decisions on behalf of people with intellectual disabilities who do not have the mental capacity to do so.

Minds will be opening two more hubs in the western and eastern parts of the island over the next two years, the statement said.

Minds chief executive Kelvin Koh, speaking on the sidelines of the launch event, said that up to 80 per cent of people with intellectual disabilities today may not be getting the services they need, even though there are about 18 social service agencies serving people with intellectual disabilities in Singapore.

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli, who was guest of honour at the event, said spaces like the hub are important so that those with intellectual disabilities can have more support closer to their homes.

He said: “It enables them to participate actively in the community and to live independently.”

Mr Masagos added that caregivers and disability sector professionals had given feedback about the need for services to be better integrated, to meet the needs of ageing people with disabilities.

The Caregiver Needs Sensing Survey, which was carried out in November 2021, found that one in three caregivers wanted more person- and family-centric support for those with intellectual disabilities.

Mr Mohamed Syahid Arif, 41, contacted Minds in 2020 to get help for his brother Saiful Azfar Arif’s health needs, and to explore the possibility of social support for him.

Mr Syahid started caring for his brother full time three years ago. Mr Saiful, 33, was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old, and started having epileptic fits when he was a teenager.

Mr Syahid, a former civil servant, said he was lucky to know about the different sources of help available for his brother.

“But other caregivers may not be as exposed as I am. They may not be aware of where to get help from. With a hub that offers all the needed services, it’s easier to get help from one place.”

The brothers live in Toa Payoh, a 30-minute journey by public transport from the Minds centre. Mr Syahid said having a place he can visit to get reliable help for his younger brother is helpful.

Ms Ong Lay Hoon, Minds director for community-based support services, said she hopes locating the centre’s services in the community can help those who are isolated, as well as their caregivers who may not be aware or willing to ask for help.

She added that people who pass by or visit the centre may know of neighbours or residents in the community who may benefit from these services, and refer them to the centre.

Mr Koh said it is important to keep those with intellectual disabilities in the community, as placing them in homes or institutionalised facilities will only deteriorate their conditions.

“They are like us, they have dreams and aspirations. They just need more time, and a society to be more understanding and supportive,” he added.

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