More work needed in caring for the marginalised

The Government, voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) and altruists cannot cover all areas when it comes to helping the marginalised. Two stories in last week's Sunday Times highlighted the good that comes when individuals step up to help the frail and vulnerable ("Help from a stranger turns her life around", "Aspiring teacher became a doc because of bullies", Dec 4).

Some of the vulnerable will still fall through the cracks, for example, the homeless, former offenders trying to get back on track, lonely seniors, the suicide prone, the mentally ill, substance abusers, families hurting from divorce and those who feel discriminated against.

So, what is missing?

A full, continually updated picture of the extent of the problem may help draw attention to the seriousness of the situation to Singaporeans, and may attract more altruistic individuals and agencies to give their support. Also, a national committee that combines Government, VWOs and philanthropists may go a long way to coordinate efforts to look after these people, call for resources and allocate them accordingly.

The mark of a great and compassionate society is one which not only takes care of its marginalised, but also helps them function better in society. Yes, ultimately an individual must take ownership of his own life; but sustained help from family, community and society will determine how successful we are in changing and transforming a dysfunctional individual.

Is Singapore up to the mark? This is one area where we can strive harder to be No. 1 in the world. In a survey last year of the top 10 values and behaviours in the eyes of Singapore citizens and permanent residents ("How S'poreans see themselves"; July 24, 2015), respondents ranked "caring for the disadvantaged" as sixth out of 10 things they would like to see in Singapore society. The first was "affordable housing". Looks like we have some way to go to becoming a compassionate society.

Kuharajahsingam Karalasingam

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 11, 2016, with the headline 'More work needed in caring for the marginalised'. Print Edition | Subscribe