You’ve been hit with disability, now what?

First some facts, to scare you into sticking to a healthy regime:

  • One in two Singaporeans aged above 65 is at risk of having a severe disability.
  • Disability was responsible for 54% of the total burden of disease and injury in Singapore in 2010.
  • Neurological, vision & hearing disorders, diabetes and mental disorders accounted for 55% of the burden.
  • Overall disability burden was marginally higher in women than in men (4% more).
  • Mental disorders were the main cause group of disability before age 40 years while contribution from diabetes was the largest between 40 and 59 years.
  • Diabetes and vision disorders were the leading causes of disability in men and women. Stroke ranked third in men followed by Alzheimer’s & other dementias and adult-onset hearing loss.

(Source: Singapore Burden of Disease study)

First thing you’d want to know when this happens, is where you can get assistance. 

Under the Agency for Integrated Care, their financial assistance is in two broad categories:

1.) Hiring a Foreign Domestic Worker

2.) Temporary relief

Here’s an overview of both:

Hiring an FDW

  • Caregiver’s Training Grant
    • This course prepares you for helping your dependants. $200 annual subsidy lets caregivers attend courses.
  • Foreign Domestic Worker Grant
    • $120 cash payment given to families to care for their loved ones who require permanent assistance. This is for paying the maid’s salary.
  • Foreign Domestic Worker Levy Concession
    • With this concession, you pay $60 levy instead of the usual $265. Each household gets concessions for up to two FDWs for two loved ones in one household.

These reliefs demonstrate why the levy is not written off for all households. Those who can afford, pay a small levy to offset the the grants of those who cannot afford it. Those who are hiring maids not for the purposes of caring, will pay the full levy.

Temporary Relief

  • ElderShield 
    • $300-$400 monthly for several years, depending on plan
  • Interim Disability Assistance Programme for the Elderly (IDAPE)
    • If you do not qualify for ElderShield, probably because of a pre-existing severe disability, you can apply for IDAPE. You can only apply for either IDAPE or make an ElderShield claim, not both.
  • Pioneer Generation Disability Assistance Scheme (PioneerDAS)
    • Under this scheme, pioneers with disabilities can receive $100 a month

To qualify for some of these programs, you’ll have to pass two tests:

a.) Functional Assessment: A doctor has to certify that you need help with at least three out of six daily activities which include: Bathing, Dressing, Feeding, Toileting, Mobility and Transferring.

b.) Means Testing: If you have someone in the household with an income, it will affect the amount of subsidy.

Disability rates are growing. 

Today, about 20% of the population is living with disabilities and this number is projected to grow. Moreover, the number of working people (that contributes taxes etc) has peaked. This means less resources to look after more people.

The “Enabling Masterplan 2017-2021”, calls for many initiatives and plans to be enacted. It will involve providing support to caregivers, engaging the community, improving the quality of lives of persons with disabilities and building an inclusive society.

Briefly, this includes:

  • Early detection programs
  • Transition management programs
  • Studying the need for the establishment of a disability office
  • Improving caregiving capabilities
  • Integration of technology

There is going to be a lot of work and a lot of resources required. To appreciate the scale, impact and demands of this work, you have to read the Enabling Masterplan report.

Findings from studies conducted by the National Council of Social Service and the Lien Foundation on the attitudes of Singaporeans towards persons with disabilities revealed that Singaporeans were still unsure about interaction etiquette. It was cited that many employers were unwilling to employ persons with disabilities.

If jobs are difficult to land, this necessarily means that the State must consider providing more welfare, that is to say more money, to persons living with disabilities.

The capacity of disability services are also rising and some have peaked. It is fact that facilities such as nursing homes are at full capacity and unable to take in new intakes. More funding is required to build such facilities. This may mean programs such as ElderShield and IDAPE will require more payout to soften the impact on breadwinners looking after their dependants.

More funding also needs to be provided to help with private technology. There exists a lot of technology that can help make life easier and the steering committee is calling for assistance in the purchase of such technologies.

Although GST had been raised, the figure that this provides to the country comes to about $1.8b a year, about the price of one hospital. Or a quarter of the Circle Line. It won’t be enough.

Insurance programs such as the ElderShield has to have more members. More people signing up for it, would mean that the risk pool would be wider. This would mean that more payout can be made to more people. Today, this figure is very healthy. But if you look at the programs that are soon to come and the rates of disability rising, you’ll very quickly realise that it won’t be enough come 2021.

Nobody wants this cruel fate. But should that day come, you can rest assured that there is more than enough safety nets to prevent you from hitting the ground.

About the author

Benjamin Chiang

Benjamin Chiang is an enthusiast of good advertising, deep thinking, labour issues and chocolate. He writes also at and occasionally on Yahoo!

The views expressed are his own.

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