SINGAPORE – Many companies, volunteers and other groups have stepped forward to help their neighbours and others in need of assistance over the past year.
And Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee hopes more Singaporeans will do so.
“Our society is stronger and more resilient when all Singaporeans come together, when we look out not only for ourselves, but our families, neighbours, and fellow Singaporeans in need,” Mr Lee told Parliament on Thursday (March 6).
Speaking at the debate on his ministry’s budget, Mr Lee outlined several initiatives that individuals and organisations could come together to partner the Government.
One is the Youth Mental Well-being Network, which will bring together those who are keen to contribute their ideas on helping those with mental health issues and deliver programmes and interventions to help youth.
More than 700 individuals and organisations have responded, and the number continues to grow, said Mr Lee.
“I hope many Singaporeans will partner us to jointly develop solutions for a healthier and happier society. Our young people deserve the best start in life,” he added.
Another initiative is the Community Capability Trust, a new fund for social services agencies to improve their capability and capacity that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced in his Budget speech last month.
A donation-matching scheme by the Government and the Tote Board aims to encourage Singaporeans to donate to this cause, raising up to $450 million.
Mr Lee said the Community Chest will also contribute $30 million to the fund.
The minister acknowledged that capability and capacity building can sound abstract, and cited the example of Angsana Home, a welfare home managed by Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society in Pelangi Village.
The home has implemented an artificial intelligence-enabled sound recognition and motion detection monitoring system so that its staff can be more quickly alerted when residents need attention.
This new system is an example of what the monies from the fund can support, said Mr Lee.
MPs Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC), Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Dr Lily Neo (Tanjong Pagar GRC) had asked how the Ministry of Social and Family Development works with different community agencies to support those in need in a coordinated manner.
Mr Lee replied that his ministry’s approach is to work with these agencies “as equal partners right from the get go”.
Over the past year, local implementation work groups comprising social service agencies, schools and pre-schools, government agencies and grassroots members went door-to-door to engage all families with young children. They also conducted focus group discussions to better understand the families, said Mr Lee.
The work groups held discussions to link the families to the right agencies for support and coordinate interventions to help them.
For areas or causes in need of extra support beyond existing programmes, the work groups brought in new partners to implement new programmes for the community, said Mr Lee.
Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) had asked how the ministry helped those who have homes but are sleeping in public due to family problems.
Mr Lee cited the Partners Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers (Peers) network as an initiative where different partners are coming together to collaborate on solutions.
He said because of the trust and understanding built between government agencies, charities, religious organisations and community groups through the network, “we were collectively able to support more rough sleepers in finding longer-term solutions, than if each of us were to work alone”.
He also expressed his hope that more people would step forward to help children from lower-income households as part of the Growing Together with KidStart movement launched in September 2019.
So far, over $800,000 in donations has been raised and there are about 250 volunteers.
“If you join us, you can partner families, the community and the government to provide extra resources and support, and watch these children grow up,” said Mr Lee.
“Let us work together to make Singapore a place where those in need are better supported, and where Singaporeans have the chance to pursue their dreams, regardless of their starting points and what they may have encountered as they progress in life.”