These include hubs to offer employment and on-the-job training to PWDs, an extended programme to support students in the transition from school to work, and more.
Earlier this week, Singapore's Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) announced a suite of new initiatives to enhance the support for persons with disabilities (PWDs) and their families, across their life stages.
These efforts, it stated, will further support MSF’s vision to empower PWDs to achieve their potential and participate as integral and contributing members of our society. Overall, these efforts will fall into the nation's Enabling Masterplans, a series of five-year roadmaps for the government and the community to work together and support PWDs.
Singapore is currently on its Third Enabling Masterplan (EMP3), under which significant improvements have been made in areas such as early intervention, early childhood education, and schooling. In line with this, two EMP3 Workgroups - one on preparing persons with disabilities for the future economy (Employment Workgroup), and a second on promoting independent living of persons with disabilities through technology and design (Independent Living Workgroup) were launched in 2019 to develop recommendations in the areas of employment and independent living.
This article summarises the key recommendations and initiatives made by the Employment Workgroup, which the Government supports and has begun implementing a few of over the past year.
Creating and sustaining work opportunities
#1 Develop employment hubs with accessible facilities where employers and PWDs can tap on shared services like job coaches
One key initiative arising from the Employment Workgroup recommendations, is MSF’s plan to pilot the development of Enabling Business Hubs (EBH).
MSF noted: "Many persons with disabilities are capable of work. But some may need customised support, such as on-site job support and a structured environment to work in. Persons with disabilities and their caregivers had shared with the Employment Workgroup that they would like more opportunities for supported employment, closer to where they live."
Thus, going forward, MSF will pilot the development of an EBH where inclusive employers will offer employment and on-the-job training to persons with disabilities. These hubs will be equipped with customised facilities and services, including on-site job coach support. The EBH pilot is expected to be operational from 2023 onwards.
#2 Pilot new programmes to create work for PWDs
PWDs could be supported to set up microbusinesses with their caregivers or other appropriate adults. Initiatives such as 'Noodles for Good' indicate such models can work with the right partners.
SG Enable is trialling more projects, under the i’mable Collective, which provides greater visibility for social service agencies (SSAs) and social enterprises to effectively showcase products created by persons with disabilities.
#3 Build up capabilities of Disability Employment Professionals to serve broader spectrum of needs and disabilities of students from both Special Education schools and IHLs
SG Enable is working with social service agencies and institutes of higher learning, to build up the capabilities and industry knowledge of Disability Employment Professionals (DEPs). These include job coaches, IHL Special Educational Needs (SEN) Support Officers, HR professionals, and therapists.
SG Enable launched a Training Roadmap for DEPs in August 2020.
Improving capabilities at all life stages
#1 Stronger emphasis on the development of soft skills, and training in authentic work settings, as part of strengthening vocational education curriculum in SPED schools
The Ministry of Education (MOE) will revise the vocational education curriculum in Special Education (SPED) schools to further emphasise the intentional development of soft skills for work.
Ample opportunities should be provided for all students to train in authentic work settings so that they can better develop these skills.
#2 Strengthen capability of Transition Planning Coordinators, improve the post-school transition, and provide new work preparatory initiatives for persons with disabilities as they transit from school to work
In 2020, MOE launched a course for Transition Planning Coordinators (TPCs) to enhance their capability in implementing Individual Transition Planning for SPED students towards post-school pathways.
MOE partnered the MSF to prototype a multi-agency transition meeting approach in 2019 to promote person-centred handovers in students’ transition to post-school pathways. This will be scaled up to involve all SPED schools by 2022.
The School-to-Work (S2W) Transition Programme has also been extended from the current one year to up to two years from January 2021. This will provide students with more support to transition from school to work.
Lastly, students with disabilities in IHLs will also be better supported by SG Enable through new work preparatory initiatives which were rolled out from 2020.
#3 Strengthen the ecosystem for continuing education for persons with disabilities, including through increasing the number of curated courses in sectors with growth opportunities, and enhance the Open Door Programme Training Grant to offer better support in specialised training
The Open Door Programme Training Grant was enhanced in July 2020 to provide stronger funding support to employers who send their employees with disabilities for training, as well as persons with disabilities seeking to upgrade themselves.
SG Enable is also working with training partners to introduce more new courses catering to persons with disabilities.
#4 Build on the ‘Digital for Life’ movement to rally industry and the community to equip persons with disabilities with digital literacy skills that are relevant and competency-based
SG Enable will work with SSAs, SkillsFuture Singapore and the Infocomm Media Development Authority to identify the digital competencies that persons with disabilities require. This will facilitate the curation of courses for the disability community.
Recognising and incentivising employers
#1 Increase recognition of inclusive employers
SG Enable launched the Enabling Mark on 8 October 2020, as a national-level accreditation framework that benchmarks and recognises organisations for the best practices and outcomes in disability-inclusive employment.
#2 Enhance wage offsets to employers of persons with disabilities
The Ministry of Manpower introduced the Enabling Employment Credit from January 2021, which will provide wage offsets of up to 30% for eligible employers of persons with disabilities.
#3 Build up a library of resources that employers and co-workers can tap on to create an inclusive workplace
SG Enable will continue to engage and raise awareness among employers and co-workers, to build a more inclusive work environment and culture.
This will include featuring success stories of inclusive employers and employees contributing and thriving at work.