A new social service offers a helping hand to those wanting to help others

Social service office helps grassroots leaders to learn to handle situations

When a mentally unsound person shouts for no reason, Ms Eileen Teo now knows she should make eye contact and gently hold his hand to calm him down.

"We walk the ground but previously we were not trained to handle certain difficult situations, so we sometimes went by trial and error," said the 45- year-old.

She was one of about 30 Bedok grassroots leaders trained to handle such situations and identify symptoms of mental illness in residents they meet.

A new social service office launched in Bedok yesterday had roped in two welfare groups for the elderly to run a workshop for the grassroots leaders two months ago.

It was just one way in which the office worked with welfare and community partners in the area to better coordinate the social services they offer.

Coordination among help groups gives residents in Bedok better access to help, said East Coast GRC MP Lee Yi Shyan yesterday at the official opening of the office. Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing also attended the event.

Located at Block 426 Bedok North Road, it started operations in June and is the 12th such office officially opened by Mr Chan's ministry since last year. It aims to set up 23 social service offices by June next year.

Along with family service centres, the offices will put help within 2km of where 95 per cent of needy residents live or work.

"Running a programme is easy but reaching out to make sure that those who need it, get it - that's the difficult part," said Mr Lee, who is also Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development.

The office provides a "common interface" for residents to access services offered by about 80 groups in Bedok, he said. Bedok is one of the HDB towns with many elderly residents. About one in four residents, or 80,700, are 55 and above.

Staff at the Bedok office handle about a dozen walk-in cases each day, of which about nine in 10 need financial aid.

One of them is Ms Penny Lam, 45, who stopped work after being diagnosed with cancer and gets about $350 in financial aid each month. Her husband is a site supervisor and they have two children aged 14 and 16. Their household income is $1,300 a month.

"I can use the money to pay for some of my medical bills and children's expenses, and I can get the help easily as I live just a short walk away from the office," she said.

goyshiyi@sph.com.sg