Social Enterprises in Singapore Supporting Disabled Staff in work

As Disability Support Workers on the Gold Coast, our team fully understands the challenges presented when working with clients who have work disabilities. We are always looking to make things more accessible and easier for our wonderful clients, so keeping up with how others are doing things is essential to us. As an NDIS provider on the Gold Coast, we continuously strive to learn and improve. Hence, our service becomes that to which others look for the highest of standards, so we were very interested to learn how our colleagues in Singapore’s two School of Concepts bases were working to provide accessibility and inclusivity. 

Social Enterprises 

The children’s enrichments centre is a social enterprise founded by Mint Lim and has two sites where children under the age of 12 can attend various literacy programmes. The things that we are most interested in as that she has pushed to make sure her vacancies are accessible to those with disabilities and has a fantastic team of individuals, including those with visual or hearing impairment, autism and intellectual disabilities. “We interview them and hire them based on their strengths. After one year of training, they’re productive and consistent and contribute very well,” said Ms Lim.

Interesting Challenges to Overcome 

Most candidates for the roles have come from Association for Persons with Special Needs schools, and once appointed, they take on a wide range of functions from receptionists to telesales, classroom assistant and more. However, Ms Lim is keen to point out that not everyone possesses the social awareness to ensure that these staff members are treated well. She recalls an incident where a parent shouted and behaved rudely to a classroom assistant who was a selective mute, failing to recognise her disability. However, she is keen to point out that this will not stop her or many other Singapore employers from enabling her staff. Figures show that in 2022 there were 25.5% of social enterprises supporting disabled staff members, up from 24% in 2021. Singapore has 93 such social enterprises actively employing and training disabled persons, up from 90 in 2021. 

Confidence is Key 

One of the issues for many staff members is work confidence, so an essential part of the employer’s role is to help increase this. The founder of Foreword Coffee, a social enterprise cafe, Mr Lim, said, “When some of them come in, they have low confidence. So we make it easy for them at first, so they can celebrate small wins and build confidence.” For example, in his cafe setting, he would encourage the new hire to learn one small part of the role at a time, making the perfect espresso, before moving on to a new challenge. His coffee chain has seven shops and was founded in 2017. It now has 32 staff on the books, and 26 have a disability that could otherwise see them struggle to find work. He said once staff come to work at one of his sites, they stay around three years and then have the confidence to move on to a new role. 

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