Job support for persons with disabilities to continue despite Covid-19 pandemic: Desmond Lee

SINGAPORE – Inclusive hiring may have taken a backseat for some employers during the current pandemic, making it harder for persons with disabilities who – like other Singaporeans – have had trouble securing jobs.

The Government and various agencies will continue to help them find training opportunities and employment, such as by moving physical lessons into online modules, and providing more training allowances and grants, said Minister for National Development and Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration Desmond Lee on Wednesday (July 29).

He said that during this period, vulnerable persons with disabilities and their caregivers face additional stressors. Hence initiatives have been put in place to help them, whether through meals, temporary respite or financial assistance.

“But jobs remain top of mind for us. How do we help employers adapt, and continue to hire and train persons with disabilities, in a largely remote working environment?” said Mr Lee, who was formerly the Minister for Social and Family Development before the recent Cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Lee was speaking at the Inclusive Business Forum, a biennial event organised by SG Enable to promote disability-inclusive hiring and best practices for employers and professionals in the disability sector.

Held virtually as a Zoom webinar, this year’s forum was themed Workplace Disability Inclusion – A New Norm. It focused on issues around workplace disability inclusion and accessibility, and their implications on the future of work.

In his speech, Mr Lee said that job support initiatives had been moved online as far as possible during the pandemic, with considerations for how persons with disabilities would be able to access them.

He added that to facilitate e-learning, SG Enable helped training providers to convert physical lessons into online modules where possible.

“We also continued to explore roles in sectors that are still hiring during Covid-19 – for example, admin and human resources, banking and finance, agritechnology and landscape, IT, cleaning, and the public sector,” said Mr Lee.

Such vacancies were made available during SG Enable’s virtual career fair in April, and another fair will be held later this year, he added.

He noted that existing schemes for persons with disabilities have recently been enhanced after they were outlined the Budget earlier this year, with an increase in the Open Door Programme training grant at the start of July to cover 95 per cent of course fees, up from 90 per cent before.

The Open Door Programme, administered by SG Enable, provides support for job placement, training and cost of job redesign.

Training allowances have also been increased from $4.50 to $6 per hour, and there is a new training commitment award of $100 among other schemes, said Mr Lee.

Addressing those attending the forum, Mr Lee said: “I hope that you will take away practical strategies, be inspired to build a more inclusive workplace, and in so doing, build a more inclusive Singapore.”

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