Three times a week, Mr Alan Neo, who is intellectually disabled, learns how to swim and do basic household chores like wiping a table at a new day activity centre in Tampines catering to visitors like him.

Because the 19-year-old goes on a part-time basis, which means fewer than four times a week, his family does not get any government subsidies for the fees incurred at the centre, which is located at Block 267 Tampines Street 21.

But from January next year, subsidies will be extended to visitors like Mr Neo.

Government subsidies of up to 80 per cent are now given only to families who place their loved ones daily (all weekdays) at the centres, which provide care services and skills training. This cap will also apply to part-time clients next year. There are 20 such centres islandwide.

The change was announced by Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing at the official opening of the Tampines centre yesterday.

The centre, which caters to the disabled aged 16 to 55, is run by the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds).

Without subsidies, it costs up to $400 a month for full-time clients and about $240 a month for three visits a week, said Minds.

For Mr Neo's family of four, the subsidies will make a difference.

His father, Mr Neo Kang Yong, 52, said in Mandarin: "This is helpful as it lessens my financial burden. It's less stressful for us."

He earns $1,000 a month as a bus driver, and is the family's sole breadwinner.

Madam Azizah Osman, 48, has a 24-year-old son who has Down syndrome. He visits the centre thrice a week. She said: "It's important my son comes here because he has nothing to do at home and that's not good."

Her husband, a seaman, earns $1,800 a month, while she makes $500 as a part-time fast-food worker. They have four children aged between 11 and 24.

Social service professionals hailed the new measure.

Minds director of residential and community-based care services, Ms Koh Gee May, said: "If you have a low income, the fees will take up a good percentage of your salary. So, definitely subsidies of any form are beneficial."