Budget 2014: $56m to help those with disabilities, special needs kids

Budget 2014: $56m to help those with disabilities, special needs kids
Mr Aziz Wagiman, a teacher in the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC) Centre in Woodlands.

More than 50,000 children with special needs and people with disabilities will soon receive more help from the Government to the tune of $56 million a year, Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Low Yen Ling said in Parliament on Thursday.

Of this sum, $32 million will go to fund subsidies under the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (Eipic).

The programme provides educational and therapy services for those below seven years old who are at risk of developmental issues.

The other $24 million will go to defraying transport costs of the disabled who either take public transport, special transport services or taxis.

From October, all Singaporean children enrolled in Eipic will receive a $500 base subsidy, up from the current $300.

On top of that, more families will be eligible for additional subsidies as the per capita income will be raised from $1,500 to $3,000.

This means a further subsidy of between 10 per cent and 75 per cent, and eight in 10 households with such children will be covered.

Adults with disabilities who take buses or trains will get a 25 per cent fare discount, and will be eligible for a monthly concession pass from July 6.

These were announced in January.

Those with limited mobility who use special transport services run by voluntary welfare organisations to get to special education schools, day activity centres and sheltered workshops can now also get subsidies from July 1.

Those with per capita income of $2,600 and below can get subsidies of between 30 per cent to 80 per cent, depending on their income.

Those who rely on taxis to go to school or work because they cannot take public transport or use other modes of travel will also get a leg up in defraying their transport expenses.

From October, the Government will subsidise up to half of the fares for taxis, including London cabs.

Those with $1,800 per capita income and below will have their fares subsidised between 10 per cent and 50 per cent.

For Mohamed Shukur, 15, who uses a wheelchair permanently due to a spinal cord injury, this means saving $20 each time he takes a London cab - the only taxi large enough for his wheelchair.

Each ride costs a flat fee of $40.

The family has been getting $800 a month from the LTA Cares Fund, which subsidies taxi rides for low-income families, but it covers only one-way cab trips to MacPherson Secondary School. Going home is a daily struggle by bus, with his mother's help.

"Buses that come are either too crowded or non-wheelchair accessible, so we can wait up to 45 minutes just to get on one," said his mother, Madam Madiah Atan.

The 59-year-old is unable to work as she needs to care for her son.

The two of them, who live in a one-room Bendemeer flat, rely on welfare aid of $370 a month and a $200 allowance from her daughter to get by.

She said: "I am happy about this new subsidy. But we will only use cabs for emergencies, such as when he is sick, as $20 a ride is still big money for us."

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