President's idea led to scheme helping those with disabilities

President Halimah Yacob, with THK Moral Charities chairman Lee Kim Siang (in light blue shirt), on a visit to the THK Indus Moral Care seniors activity centre in Tiong Bahru yesterday. The charity offers a drop-in disability programme at four of its
President Halimah Yacob, with THK Moral Charities chairman Lee Kim Siang (in light blue shirt), on a visit to the THK Indus Moral Care seniors activity centre in Tiong Bahru yesterday. The charity offers a drop-in disability programme at four of its 15 seniors activity centres, which started in 2013, shortly after Madam Halimah made the suggestion when she was a minister of state.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

They can now join activities at some of THK Moral Charities' senior centres in lull periods

The germ of an idea came from President Halimah Yacob several years ago when she was a minister of state.

Yesterday, she visited a charity that had brought it to fruition by opening up some of its eldercare centres to people with disabilities after mealtimes, when the crowds of seniors have dwindled.

These centres allow those with disabilities to take part in social and recreational programmes in the community, so they will not be cooped up at home. At the same time, caregivers get a respite. The facilities are offered for free, for a few hours a day, up to three days a week.

This drop-in disability programme for people aged 16 and older is offered at four of the 15 seniors activity centres run by Thye Hua Kwan (THK) Moral Charities. It started in 2013, shortly after Madam Halimah suggested it to the charity, when she was Minister of State for Social and Family Development.

THK Moral Charities chairman Lee Kim Siang said: "She realised that children above the age of 18 had nowhere to go after they graduate from special education schools. They are at home every day and their family members could find it hard to cope."

Mr Lee was speaking during a visit by Madam Halimah to THK Indus Moral Care seniors activity centre in Tiong Bahru, which has yet to offer the disability programme.

PLACE OF RESPITE

She realised that children above the age of 18 had nowhere to go after they graduate from special education schools. They are at home every day and their family members could find it hard to cope.

THK MORAL CHARITIES CHAIRMAN LEE KIM SIANG, on President Halimah's suggestion to open eldercare centres to people with disabilities during lull periods.

Said Madam Halimah yesterday: "There are certain peak and lull periods in the seniors activity centres, and the lull periods are when something more could be done."

It was why she had discussed with Mr Lee if people with disabilities who are not at school or work could use the centres during the lull periods.

Madam Halimah commended THK Moral Charities for its work and said it was a "major player in the social service sector".

It runs more than 60 programmes, two homes and 55 centres for different disadvantaged groups.

"THK Indus Moral Care has been around for 17 years... I see the senior citizens here with happy faces, which means they find the activities you provide meaningful," she said.

"We want our senior citizens to be independent and supported by their families, but also to have community support which is accessible to them."

The centre serves 380 senior citizens living in Block 79, Indus Road - where it is sited - as well as nearby blocks.

Mr Leong Tuck Soon, 93, who goes regularly to the centre, said he enjoyed speaking to Madam Halimah.

"We spoke in Malay. She is someone who is understanding and concerned about people's welfare."

Since she was sworn in as head of state on Sept 14, Madam Halimah has visited a centre run by the Association for Persons with Special Needs that prepares people with disabilities for employment, and the National University Hospital to see how its healthcare workers are coping with the demands of Singapore's ageing population.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2017, with the headline 'President's idea led to scheme helping those with disabilities'. Print Edition | Subscribe