In her written question, MP for Jalan Besar GRC, Ms Denise Phua Lay Peng, asked the Minister for Social and Family Development whether the Ministry can further assist persons with special needs who require replacement for aids such as motorised wheelchairs, cochlear implants and other hearing aids throughout their lives.
Parliamentary Secretary Assoc Prof Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim (for the Minister for Social and Family Development) responded to Ms Phua’s question by stating that the Government’s program, the Assistive Technology Fund (ATF), will help persons with disabilities defray the cost of assistive devices such as motorised wheelchairs and hearing aids.
The fund subsidises up to 90 per cent of equipment cost for persons with disabilities.
Mr Faishal said that the scheme was enhanced in August 2015 in three main areas.
First, he said that the Government broadened the criteria. Previously, only students and working adults with disabilities could tap on the fund. Now, persons with disabilities can use the fund for various purposes, ranging from education, employment to independent living.
The second is the lifetime cap for each person with disability was doubled from $20,000 to $40,000. Mr Faishal said that the Government recognised that the needs for assistive technology may change as persons with disabilities transit into different life-stages or they may require several replacements of devices or aids overtime. Depending on the level of customisation, usage and subsidies received, persons with disabilities can tap on the fund for at least four times for replacement of devices.
The third is a raise of the per capita monthly income eligibility criteria from $1,500 to $1,800. He stated that the Government has also worked with the National Council of Social Service to provide additional funding to better support low income families with their out-of-pocket payments for the devices through the Special Assistance Fund.
Mr Faishal said that SG Enable, who administers the scheme, has simplified the application process to enable ease of application by persons with disabilities. SG Enable has also set up a TechAble centre at the Enabling Village to encourage and facilitate the adoption of assistive technology.
He noted that persons with disabilities can approach the centre to assess their needs and seek advice on different types of devices such as motorised wheelchairs. With such support, those with disabilities and their caregivers can make better informed decisions on assistive technology.
According to Mr Faishal, close to 1,200 persons with disabilities have benefited from the fund since the enhancements. This is more than a seven-fold increase in the take-up rate from 15 beneficiaries a month in 2014 prior to the enhancement, to about 110 beneficiaries a month after the enhancements. 20% are repeat beneficiaries.