More ground-up projects needed to support local communities: Heng Swee Keat

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat (second from right) and Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Lily Neo (right) speaking with (from left) Chan Chiew Mun, Chan Chew Lock and Madam Go Kim Eng during a walkabout in the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng area. Mr Heng on Sunday,
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat (second from right) and Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Lily Neo (right) speaking with (from left) Chan Chiew Mun, Chan Chew Lock and Madam Go Kim Eng during a walkabout in the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng area. Mr Heng on Sunday, July 6, 2014, called for more local ground-up initiatives to complement policies at the national level, as these projects can better meet the specific needs of different communities here. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

SINGAPORE - Education Minister Heng Swee Keat on Sunday called for more local ground-up initiatives to complement policies at the national level, as these projects can better meet the specific needs of different communities here.

"While government policies are very important at the national level, the local communities have different needs, and these needs can also be met more efficiently, or meaningfully, at the community level," he told reporters at a community visit to the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng division of Tanjong Pagar GRC.

"And that's were an energetic and caring community makes a difference."

He held up the projects of the division's MP Dr Lily Neo as an "excellent example" of how the community can support its residents.

Almost half of her residents are aged 50 and above, and about a third are low-income families living in rental flats.

"I'm very happy to see Lily making a difference in this community. How she is able to mobilise the grassroots leaders and many volunteers to mount a range of programmes that meet the very specific needs of the community," said Mr Heng.

"We hope many more of these ground-up efforts to bring out this community spirit, and to build a more caring community will take root across the whole island."

The Government has called on greater community action to support its policies. In his opening address for the second half of Parliament, President Tony Tan Keng Yam urged greater individual and community effort and initiative to match the government's social programmes.

As Mr Heng toured the ward on Sunday, he launched various initiatives in the ward.

One of them is the Ageing Gracefully @ Home programme, in which able-bodied senior citizens living in two blocks of rental flats in Chin Swee Road befriend elderly neighbours in need of help.

These seniors drop by daily for a chat, ensure that their neighbours are taking their medication, and bring them down for a meal at the Senior Citizen Centre.

He also opened a new activity centre for the Catch Plus Programme, which helps underprivileged children between the ages of 7 to 16 from low-income homes. They go for tuition classes and activities like outdoor sports and music classes.

This, said Dr Neo, would help them "move up the social ladder".

"What we want is to be able to reach out to as many of them as possible... We also want to have good programmes that can help them holistically, be it in their education or their social skills and behavioural skills," she said.