Speech by Minister Desmond Lee at CaringSG Virtual Launch Ceremony

Nov 20, 2021

Good afternoon. I am very glad to join you today for the official launch of CaringSG.

Let me start by thanking all the staff, volunteers, and partners of CaringSG, for making today’s event possible. Thank you all for your support and contributions to building a more inclusive and caring society.

The heartware and hardware of building a caring and inclusive society

Over the years, we have worked together with many partners to build a more inclusive society for persons with special needs or disabilities, their caregivers, and their families.

We have strived to enhance both our heartware and our hardware – Heartware means taking care of emotional needs and mental well-being, through community networks, resources, and support. And hardware is about improving our physical infrastructure, to make our homes, neighbourhoods, and public spaces more accessible for persons with disabilities.

Today, I’d like to share more about some of the latest efforts to strengthen both of these aspects.

Why do we need better caregiver support in Singapore?

Let me first touch on the heartware, and in particular, how we can better support caregivers of persons with special needs or disabilities.

Caregivers are the first line of support for their loved ones. They devote much of their time, energy and love toward taking care of their loved ones, without asking for anything in return.

But along the way, they face different challenges and strains. Their needs and those of their loved ones change across different stages of life.  And beyond caregiving, they often take on many other responsibilities in their family and the wider community – as a spouse or sibling or child, or as a breadwinner, a community volunteer, and more. 

Based on our consultations with caregivers for the Third Enabling Masterplan, their top concerns include:
a. Preparing for the future when they are no longer able to care for their loved ones, 
b. Being able to perform their caregiving role well,
c. And a need for their own self-care and respite.

So our caregivers, too, need our strong support.

Building the heartware of better caregiver support

And that is why the launch of CaringSG is so important. CaringSG is unique because it is a ground-up organisation, set up and led by caregivers, for caregivers. So it has a deep understanding of the specific needs of caregivers, and can better support them.

To date, its informal caregiver support network has reached over 8,000 caregivers, and is supported by more than 50 professional partners and volunteers. Today, CaringSG is also launching its very first initiative, Project 3i.

Project 3i helps to strengthen community support for caregivers, through three programmes: CAREconnect, CAREbuddy and CAREwell.

CAREconnect connects caregivers with others in the community, through digital platforms and physical events. 

Through these connections, caregivers can receive greater social support, and develop their knowledge and emotional resilience. CAREconnect will also train community leaders and volunteers to better support and interact with caregivers and their families through the CAREkaki program. I am delighted that Boon Lay will be one of the pilot sites for the CAREkaki program and CAREconnect physical events.

CAREbuddy offers befriending and peer mentorship by trained caregivers, who are called CAREbuddies. This provides caregivers with much-needed emotional support for their caregiving journey, with all its ups and downs.

Finally, CAREwell helps caregivers to navigate and access important services more easily, such as healthcare and social support. CAREwell does this via its community support team, who will help caregivers navigate and access necessary mainstream health and social services, and supported by CAREwell’s community of professional volunteers, which include doctors, therapists, teachers, and psychologists.  For instance, some CAREwell professionals have been supporting caregivers who have been put on quarantine or home recovery during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Project 3i will be piloted as a project under the Alliance for Action (AfA) for Caregivers of Persons with Disabilities formed by the National Council of Social Service and SG Enable. Caregivers can tap on Project 3i’s programmes by joining CaringSG as a member.

CaringSG will lead Project 3i, with support from the AfA for Caregivers, and in close partnership with other groups and programmes that provide peer mentorship and other informal support. 

Through these and other community efforts, we can form a strong network to better support our caregivers, together.

Building the hardware to support persons with disabilities

As we continue to enhance the heartware of our society, we are also improving the hardware of our city and our neighbourhoods, to support differently-abled persons live more independently and participate more meaningfully in the community.  

(A) Importance of Accessible Public Spaces

For more than 30 years, BCA has rolled out many initiatives progressively, to make Singapore’s built environment more accessible and inclusive. 

(1) Code on Accessibility 2019

For instance, the Code on Accessibility in the Built Environment specifies certain requirements on how buildings are designed, so that our buildings are accessible for people regardless of their abilities and age.
a. We first introduced the Code in 1990, and have updated it over the years, most recently in 2019, in partnership with various Social Services Agencies.

(2) Accessibility Fund

For older buildings that were built before the accessibility requirements were introduced, BCA also launched a $40-million Accessibility Fund in 2007.

This provides co-funding for buildings to be retrofitted with basic accessibility features. To date, about 150 buildings, including shopping centres, hotels, and religious buildings, have benefited from the Fund. For example, in The Octagon, a commercial building in the CBD, the building owner tapped on the Accessibility Fund to provide an accessible ramp and an accessible toilet, which benefit wheelchair users, families with strollers, and other groups.

Through these and other efforts, most of our buildings today are accessible for persons with disabilities. In particular, almost all public sector buildings and infrastructure that are frequented by the public have achieved at least basic accessibility. 

However, we can still do more to improve the inter-connectivity of buildings with their surrounding amenities, such as transportation infrastructure – especially within certain localities. 

(B) Announcements

(1) Our Accessible City@CBD (Raffles Place)

One example is the Central Business District (CBD). It is a core commercial district where many people go to work. But for persons with disabilities working in or visiting the area, there are often challenges in getting around conveniently. 

To address these challenges, we have formed a pilot community partnership called Our Accessible City@CBD (Raffles Place). 

Led by Ar. Michael Ngu (CEO of Architects 61 Pte Ltd) and BCA, this partnership comprises representatives from the private sector, government agencies, and community groups like the Disabled People’s Association (DPA), SPD, the Handicaps Welfare Association (HWA), and the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH) – and it includes persons with disabilities. 

The partnership will identify challenges with accessibility and inter-connectivity in the CBD that persons with disabilities face on a daily basis. It will then prioritise among these needs, and develop and implement solutions to address the gaps. 

(2) Our Accessible City @ Boon Lay Neighbourhood and Our Accessible City @ Nee Soon Central Neighbourhood [To be launched]

Accessibility is important, not only where we work, but also where we live. Through the efforts of HDB and Town Councils over the years, our HDB estates have been planned and designed to be largely barrier-free, so that residents can access amenities with ease.

But we can do even better, to close the gaps that may still exist. So we will form a similar community partnership on accessibility for the HDB heartlands, starting in Boon Lay and later in Nee Soon Central.

“Our Accessible City @ Boon Lay Neighbourhood” and “Our Accessible City @ Nee Soon Central Neighbourhood” will be co-led by Ms Judy Wee [Executive Director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (Singapore)] and HDB.

These partnerships will include persons with disabilities and other members of different backgrounds, working closely with the local community and public agencies.

(3) Launch of The Accessible City Network

These three pilots – Our Accessible City @ CBD, Boon Lay, and Nee Soon Central – will form the backbone of the Accessible City Network (ACN), an alliance of community partnerships that bring together the public, private and people sectors. 

Together, they will find ways to enhance the accessibility of our public spaces –
a. For instance, by providing better way-finding signage and identifying where more barrier-free features are needed, or by raising awareness on the needs of persons with disabilities and their caregivers, and encouraging others to look out for them, and more.

This implements one of the recommendations of the Third Enabling Masterplan Independent Living Workgroup announced in April 2021, co-chaired by Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli and Board Advisory Panel member of SPD Ms Chia Yong Yong, and comprising representatives from the public, private and people sectors.

We hope that these pilots will galvanise the community, and inspire more of us to step forward to expand this Network to other parts of Singapore over time. We also look forward to seeing more of such partnerships between the public, private and people sectors, to collectively build an inclusive society under the next Enabling Masterplan 2030.


To round up, it is a continuous journey to improve the heartware of our society through better caregiver support, as well as the hardware of our city through the accessibility of our built environment. Everyone can play a part in this important endeavour.

We welcome all partners – Caregivers, persons with special needs or disabilities, allies, professionals, corporate organisations, SSAs, and Institutes of Higher Learning – to join us in this collaborative effort to make Singapore more accessible and inclusive.

Thank you.