Punggol gets its first Family Service Centre

SINGAPORE - Punggol, one of Singapore's newest housing estates, has launched its first Family Service Centre to serve the needy and build strong community bonds.

The centre is special because it is introduced into the community early, before social problems emerge, said Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, who was guest-of-honour at the opening of the centre on Saturday.

"This is a brand new town... but we don't want just to come in when there are issues," said Mr Chan in a speech. "We want to bring it in early into the community to grow the community and to mobilise community resources to preempt and prevent social issues from emerging downstream."

Punggol is home to about 881,000 residents and has the highest proportion of children aged five years and below in Singapore.

"Not only is Punggol one of Singapore's newest HDB estates, it is also the 'youngest'. said Dr Vincent Ng, executive director of AMKFSC Community Services, which oversees the new centre in Punggol. "As such, issues residents face may include marital and parenting difficulties, and the Sandwich Generation struggling to balance work, marriage and personal goals while taking care of young children and ageing parents."

At the opening, Mr Chan also said that unlike established communities such as those in Toa Payoh, Ang Mo Kio or Tanjong Pagar, it will take Punggol many years to forge a sense of community.

"But if we put the right ingredients in the correct time and place and establish those foundations, I am confident that Punggol as a brand new community will build its own identity to care for the less fortunate amongst us sooner than later," he added.

The centre recently surveyed 440 households in the estate and found that, among other findings, three in 10 of them have at least one non-Singaporean family member who come from countries such as China, India or Malaysia.

Said its centre head Yum Sin Ting: "These findings reveal a need for adequate childcare and student care services, as well as parenting education. Furthermore, issues arising out of integration efforts within Punggol's diverse multi-national population need to be closely monitored."