Island's social services network is complete

Deputy PM Tharman Shanmugaratnam at yesterday's opening of the Taman Jurong SSO, with Minister of Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin (far right) and Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social and Family Devel
Deputy PM Tharman Shanmugaratnam at yesterday's opening of the Taman Jurong SSO, with Minister of Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin (far right) and Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social and Family Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Singapore's social services network was completed yesterday with the official opening of the Taman Jurong social service office (SSO), the island's 24th.

The offices, along with the 43 family service centres (FSCs), mean 95 per cent of the island's needy residents now have access to help within 2km of where they live or work.

The first SSO, in Kreta Ayer, was set up in July 2013. Previously, needy Singaporeans had only five Community Development Councils to turn to for financial aid.

But while the network is complete, SSOs will continue to evolve so they can more efficiently provide services to residents.

One way they will do so is by integrating their locations with family service centres, like Taman Jurong and Kreta Ayer have done. This will make it easier for the needy to gain access to different social services.

Ms Chong Soo Fern, general manager of SSO @ Taman Jurong, said about 30 per cent of the 170 clients her SSO has helped since it opened on Nov 2 also needed FSC help.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam officiated at yesterday's opening, along with Minister of Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin.

Mr Tharman said there have been efforts to integrate the systems of healthcare and social services so that when a resident on schemes such as Public Assistance visits the hospitals, the hospitals would know to check Medifund and other financial assistance schemes to pay for the patient's healthcare.

"If they already are on assistance from the SSO, we want to make sure they won't have to go through a whole new round of evaluation or means testing," said Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies and MP for Jurong GRC.

Mr Tan said he will monitor whether there is a rising need for SSOs.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2015, with the headline 'Island's social services network is complete'. Print Edition | Subscribe