Concerns Over Reduction Of Subsidies For Special Needs Children
Singapore Government & Relevant Ministries
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As a parent of an autistic boy, I have been alerted to complains by parents of special needs children on their respective online forums ([email protected] and [email protected]). Unfortunately, there has been a lack of coordinated effort to bring to light these concerns. The main reason - parents of these special children already have their hands full to make ends meet in providing for their kids with the necessary programs to improve their long term well being. All the time consuming efforts leave them with little time to gather, discuss and publicise their plights.
Programs for special needs children are costly and are in short supply in Singapore. As parents, we all want to provide the best for our kids. On average, it costs a parent between $1000 to $2000 monthly to support a special needs kid. Excluding the financial burden, parents often have to trial and error to find the best program to suit their children. The latest income mean testing measures to determine affordability by households has, in my opinion, added further burden to parents already bogged down with unexpected financial costs and endless emotional baggage.
While it makes a lot of economic sense for the policy makers to ensure sustainability of subsidise health care, it is probably a mean measure to implement by a normal person who has little insight on the upbringing of special needs kids. Special needs children are also Singaporeans. Their disabilities at a young age have rendered them ineligible for insurance coverage, ie there is no way to mitigate their long term medical costs. In addition the short supply of specialists in their respective areas means that the public sector has not been able to cope with their treatments, leaving parents to turn to the more expensive private sector specialists. Long queues for medical and special educational services are common for these kids and the situation has yet to improve significantly despite increased awareness amongst the Ministries.
In view of the continuing cost cutting and outsourcing programs, I would like to suggest the relevant Ministries to reconsider the income mean testing exercises. Instead, they should do well to help formulate a fair and sustainable assistance package that will help parents of such kids to defray the high costs. A co-pay scheme together with a list of accredited lists of specialists, similar to the present baby bonus scheme, can be administered to ensure all special needs kids obtain their required healthcare and educational needs at the shortest possible time.
Our Prime Minister has promised us an all inclusive Singapore society. Parents with special needs children have been labouring in silence all these while in hope of miracles in their children. With the rising incidence of special needs, reasonable financial assistance from the government will help to allay further anxiety for these parents.