Sun Xueling & Eric Chua on sustaining social mobility and empowering persons with disabilities


If Budget 2023 and the ongoing Committee of Supply (COS) debates have shown us one thing, it is that the PAP Government is moving full steam ahead at strengthening our social compact, starting with the most vulnerable sectors of our society. 

Empowering persons with disabilities (PwDs)

A man on wheelchair heads towards the entrance of a building with a sign that reads “Building Dreams Enabling Lives”.

To prevent inclusivity from being reduced to a box-ticking exercise in HR circles, our MPs raised the issue of how we can further support the dreams and aspirations of PwDs.

Ms Rachel Ong (West Coast GRC), for instance, asked if we can explore alternative training pathways to expand the work options of PwDs beyond the hospitality and manufacturing sectors.

Meanwhile, Ms Ng Ling Ling (Ang Mo Kio GRC) shared her belief that lifelong learning opportunities and social inclusion activities must be made available to PwDs to help them gain meaningful employment, just as they are available to every other Singaporean.

A group of people in a room

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In his reply, Senior Parliamentary Secretary (SPS) for Social and Family Development Eric Chua highlighted two initiatives from our Enabling Masterplan 2030 that will drive disability inclusion in Singapore.

Enabling Services Hubs (ESH) will be launched in Tampines and Bedok in the coming months, said SPS Chua. 

“At the ESH, persons with disabilities can take part in social activities and attend courses to pick up new skills. Caregivers who need a short break can also use the drop-in respite care services.”

Besides the ESH, SPS Chua announced the development of the Enabling Business Hubs (EBH), the first of which will open in Jurong and bring jobs closer to where PwDs live.

The EBH will collaborate with employers and job coaches to help companies implement inclusive hiring practices. It will also help match PwDs who possess the necessary skills with suitable employers, added SPS Chua. 

“Along with other measures, the EBH will contribute to our aspirational target employment rate for persons with disabilities of 40 per cent by 2030, up from 31 per cent today.”

Giving every child the best start in life

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Other than inclusivity, sustaining social mobility is another important aspect of our social compact and a priority for the PAP. 

And one of the ways to achieve that is to level the playing field.

As MPs Mr Mohd Fahmi Aliman (Marine Parade GRC) and Mr Melvin Yong (Radin Mas SMC) have shared, children from lower-income families face more challenges getting a good head start. 

From frazzled parents too bogged down by practical worries to dysfunctional family relations, all of which can result in child neglect and low morale. 

For that reason, Minister of State for Social and Family Development (MOS) Sun Xueling reinforced the PAP’s commitment to providing more upstream and targeted support to lower-income families. 

At the core of this promise is the KidSTART programme, which supports eligible families as soon as their child is born. 

A little kiasu? Perhaps. But that’s precisely what is needed to give vulnerable kids a good head start.. 

Equipping parents with the skills and knowledge to support their children’s development can result in significant outcomes such as better positive educational attainment and employment in the future, said MOS Sun. 

In addition, MOS Sun empathised with the need to increase preschool attendance among lower-income families. 

Because clearly, there are factors beyond affordability preventing parents from sending their children to preschools that cost as low as $3 a month

To address this problem, MOS Sun announced that children from lower-income households will have priority enrolment at anchor operator preschools (AOP). 

The outreach team from KidSTART will also continue to reach out to parents to explain the importance of early childhood education. 

“These moves will lay a stronger foundation to help children from lower-income families progress by intervening early to support subsequent education and life outcomes.”

After all, a good start in life begins at birth, said MOS Sun.

Images via SG Enable via Facebook/Care Corner/KidSTART/MCI via YouTube