Dear Caregivers and family members,
Ms Janice Ang, Chairperson of AWWA,
Distinguished guests from the Community Care sector,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. A very good afternoon to one an all. I am delighted to join you for this year's Model Caregiver Awards. Ten years ago, AWWA started the awards to recognise ordinary people who have gone to extraordinary lengths in their caregiving journey. This year, AWWA is co-organising the Awards with six other partners - Caregivers Alliance, MINDS, St Luke's Eldercare, Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities, the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) and National Council of Social Service (NCSS). It is indeed a good demonstration of how the sector can come together to support caregivers.
2. Let me once again extend my heartiest congratulations to all award recipients. We have caregivers like Mr Ang Beng Hui, who has had to juggle between work and family commitments to care for his mother, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia since he was 14. He also had to delay starting his own family in order to care for his mother. Madam Kamisah, a single mother, had to work the night shift to raise 3 children, including her youngest, who is a quadriplegic. We also have younger caregivers like Sherry Lim, who is a strong advocate for people with Down's Syndrome after caring for her brother, Kian Say, since young. She intends to continue caring for him at home even when she gets married. There are also senior caregivers like 76-year-old Mr Poh Khuat, who has been caring for his wife since 2004 when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease despite his own cancer treatments. In addition, let's not forget the many domestic helpers in Singapore who have been caring for our loved ones as if they were their own family, such as Josefina, who took up basic nursing and foot reflexology lessons to better care for her employer's daughter, Leona. Each of these represents a poignant tale of love and great sacrifice.
3. Indeed, the Government is committed to supporting our caregivers in this journey to help them cope with their needs.
Enhancing information access and care navigation
4. First, we are putting in place more touch points to help caregivers navigate the social and healthcare systems and improve access to information on care services and schemes. Through our many dialogues with caregivers, this is one of the important request in terms of helping them to navigate the whole system � whether it is social services or the healthcare system. We launched the Singapore Silver Line in 2014. This is a one-stop helpline for seniors and their caregivers to receive help on eldercare services and other schemes. To date, we have received more than 125,000 calls. AIC has set up AICare Links in five public hospitals and at its office in Maxwell Road. These are one-stop information and referral points for caregivers to receive advice and help on services and schemes. The centres serve an average of 4,200 patients and their caregivers each month. AIC also plans to set up more information booths on care services and schemes at the polyclinics to make information even more readily accessible. We already have three booths at Chua Chu Kang, Marine Parade and Yishun Polyclinics and we hope to roll out more booths in six other polyclinics by early 2018.
6. For caregivers of persons with disabilities, the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) will be working together with community organisations to establish a network of support for caregivers. This includes a Disability Caregiver Support Centre to provide services such as information and resources, planned respite and training. The centre will also link caregivers to support groups and other relevant agencies for further assistance. Close to 2,000 caregivers are expected to benefit from this support network over the next 5 years.
Expanding respite services
7. Second, we are expanding our respite care services so that caregivers have more opportunities to take a short break in caregiving and recharge. Over the last four years, we have expanded our respite care services to make them more accessible. There are currently nine eldercare centres across Singapore where caregivers can place their loved ones to be cared for during the weekends. Those who need a longer respite from a few days to a month can also participate in the Nursing Home Respite Care Programme, which is now offered by more than 40 nursing homes since its launch in May 2013. For those looking after a senior with dementia, the Eldersit programme offers respite at home for caregivers, with the eldersitters conducting exercises to engage the seniors while their caregivers take a break. We are increasing the number of eldersitters from the current 100 to 160 by 2020 to meet the growing needs.
8. Since 2015, NCSS has also put in place a pilot for caregivers of persons with moderate to severe disabilities to have some respite. The 'Me Too! Club' enables persons with disabilities to interact and be included in the community through leisure activities and befriending programmes while giving caregivers a break.
9. Third, we are equipping our caregivers to care better. Caregivers caring for seniors or persons with disability can tap on an annual subsidy of up to $200 under the Caregivers' Training Grant to attend training courses. There are more than 200 courses from over 60 approved training providers to choose from.
10. We have developed a comprehensive eldercare training programme for Foreign Domestic Workers to better care for seniors. We started the Eldercarer FDW scheme in October last year where FDWs can attend training on eldercare skills before they are deployed. As of early this month, 49 FDWs have been trained, of which 45 have been placed with families.
Building supportive community networks
11. Even as the Government works hard to develop services for our caregivers, it is equally important that we work together to form communities of care around our caregivers. We are working to galvanise the community to form networks and link up resources within the community to support our caregivers. Over the next five years, we will provide basic training for frontline staff of selected government agencies, community partners and social service agencies to enable them to identify persons with early signs of mental health conditions and refer them to appropriate agencies to seek help earlier. We will also continue to create more Dementia-Friendly Communities (DFCs), which rally residents, businesses and our partners to help identify and assist seniors with dementia. On top of this, a new Community Networks for Seniors pilot will bring together government agencies and community organisations to support the health and social needs of our seniors within the community.
12. We are also looking at how we can mobilise existing community resources. One example is AIC's pilot training for taxi drivers to familiarise taxi drivers on ways to assist passengers on wheelchairs to get into taxis. These taxi drivers will also get an overview on understanding dementia to help them better support passengers with dementia symptoms. These efforts will make it easier for caregivers to bring their loved ones out and about more easily. Since the pilot started in November, more than 280 taxi drivers have been trained and we are looking to train more taxi drivers in the coming months. By involving the community, we aim to foster an inclusive and compassionate society where supporting caregivers is seen as a collective responsibility.
13. In closing, I want to congratulate all our caregivers who are with us today for all that you have done to benefit the lives of those under your care. Even as we honour those who are here today, let us also remember the many more Singaporeans who are caring for someone they love. I hope that all of us will continue to encourage and affirm them so that they will know they are not alone in their caregiving roles.
14. I would like to take this opportunity to thank AWWA and its partners for organising today's event, and continuing to care for our caregivers. I wish everyone a pleasant and fruitful weekend.
Source: Ministry of Health, Singapore