$4m in grants to improve transport services for the disabled

$4m in grants to improve transport services for the disabled

PERSONS with disabilities can look forward to more kerb-to-kerb transport from their homes to community care centres or to special education schools, with $4 million in grants to three transport operators.

The grants - awarded by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) together with the National Council of Social Service - will defray the cost of purchasing and retrofitting 33 new vans or buses.

The operators are expected to work together to provide transport services, and liaise with voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) on operational details such as the routes and timings.

Currently, VWOs either provide their own in-house transport services or engage transport operators for their clients. However, there is a limited choice of transport providers who are willing to take up these jobs and have the capacity to do so, said the MSF.

"This is partly due to the special attention and care that persons with disabilities require during the journey," said an MSF spokesman.

The grant will help transport operators serve their passengers with greater efficiency. They have also committed to keeping fares affordable. The three operators are the Handicaps Welfare Association, EK Ang Trading and Transport, and Silveray. They were selected for their knowledge of working with people with disabilities, service standards, training and safety standards, as well as their proposed fees.

The ministry will also add 140 more places for adults with disabilities at day activity centres this year. This will bring the total number to almost 1,200 spots. Currently, there are 21 such centres.

Adults with autism will also get a new day activity centre tailored for them this year, and a new home for adults with disabilities will be built by 2018.

"We hope to have a wider range of care options in future, to meet the different needs, based on the type of disabilities, based on severity and also based on the different level of family support," said Ms Low Yen Ling, Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development.

She gave an update on the headway made in employment for people with disabilities, saying about 300 were placed in jobs this financial year by SG Enable - an agency that serves people with disabilities - and VWOs.

Last year, more than 5,900 employers received the Special Employment Credit - of up to 16 per cent of monthly incomes - for jobs provided to 7,500 people with disabilities.

Ms Low singled out Ms Annabelle Wong, 21, as an example of how training can give such workers more job options, thus making them a part of the community.

Ms Wong, who is intellectually disabled, secured a job as a crew member at Pizza Hut last year, after getting help from a job coach at SG Enable. She started out cleaning tables, and now attends to customer requests, while also being trained to take orders.

"I like meeting customers and my supervisor gives me a lot of encouragement and support... I am happy now as I can earn an income and I'm also less shy," she told The Straits Times.



This article was first published on March 14, 2015.
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