Residents' Committees can help pioneers and needy benefit from Budget 2014: PM Lee

The important role that grassroots volunteers can play in helping older Singaporeans understand the details of the Pioneer Generation Package announced in this year's Budget and how they can benefit from it, was highlighted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday.

Speaking at the first People's Association (PA) Residents' Committees (RC) Convention, he said these groups of volunteers, which are in HDB estates islandwide, also play a part in communicating the Government's strategies in simpler terms to residents and helping them to apply for assistance programmes.

"A very effective way is through house visits, when you share the Budget in a context that the residents can relate to, in words they understand," he said.

The convention is being held to take stock of RCs' progress since their inception in 1978.

The Government, Mr Lee said at ITE College West to a crowd of more than 1,000 PA volunteers, "cannot know everything," so members of the community must support each other.

This is where RCs come in - to connect residents to one another.

Mr Lee gave the example of how RCs have helped to tackle community issues such as littering and noise pollution and have been distributing masks during the haze. In emergencies, they also coordinate local resources to complement official sources of aid.

He pointed to the Marsiling Road fire last July, where RC volunteers had helped evacuate elderly residents before the police and civil defence team arrived.

"These are examples of how RCs can participate build stronger communities together," he said.

To achieve this, RCs need a pool of dedicated leaders and new volunteers, including those who come from more varied backgrounds, to match an increasingly diverse resident profile.

He announced a new programme to develop RC chairpersons and managers and said it will offer volunteers the opportunity to study communication and leadership skills, among others.

In his speech, Mr Lee also chronicled the growth and changes RCs have gone through in looking after the needs of residents over more than three decades.

He stressed the need for RCs to adapt their activities and programmes to the changing needs, lifestyles and interests of residents.

The RC Council, which is organising this year's convention, was formed in October 2012 to guide various RCs in effectively engaging residents. There are currently 574 RCs under the People's Association.