Scheme to help seniors will be piloted soon

(Standing, from left) Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Joan Pereira, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor with elderly residents at Thong Kheng Senior Activity Centre in Bukit Merah yesterday. Mr Heng gave more details
(Standing, from left) Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Joan Pereira, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor with elderly residents at Thong Kheng Senior Activity Centre in Bukit Merah yesterday. Mr Heng gave more details of the Community Network for Seniors pilot: Institutions such as schools, businesses and non-profit organisations could be among those providing support to the elderly.ST PHOTO: PRISCILLA GOY

A new programme to better coordinate support services for the elderly will be piloted in three to five precincts over the next few months, and then be scaled up if successful.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced the Community Networks for Seniors pilot in his Budget speech, and disclosed further details yesterday during a visit to the Thong Kheng Senior Activity Centre (TKSAC) in Bukit Merah.

Institutions such as schools, businesses and non-profit organisations could be among those providing support, such as by offering befriending services or delivering food.

At the heart of the scheme will be a small team of full-time government officers who will study the health and social needs of seniors and coordinate help efforts.

The Government hopes to help seniors discover any health issues they may have earlier, so that they can be managed.

  • Key social measures in Budget 2016

  • •The Silver Support Scheme gives quarterly payouts of between $300 and $750. It supports the bottom 20 per cent of senior citizens aged 65 and above, with a smaller degree of support extended to cover up to 30 per cent of seniors.

    •The new Child Development Account First Step grant will be introduced for all Singaporean children. Parents will automatically get $3,000, which can be used for their children's childcare and healthcare needs. This applies to babies born from March 24.

    •The basic monthly cash allowance under the Public Assistance scheme, for those permanently unable to work, and with little or no means of income and family support, will be raised by $80 to $870.

    •Households will get one to three months of service and conservancy charge rebates.

    •Households that qualify for the GST cash voucher will get more this year, through a "cash special payment" of up to $200 to be made in November.

Mr Heng said: "Our population is ageing rapidly. To enable our seniors to age with dignity and vitality, we need to shift our centre of care from the hospital setting to the neighbourhood."

Asked how this initiative differs from existing social service offices (SSOs), which also help to coordinate support efforts, he said: "SSOs look after broad social needs, but if you look at the healthcare needs, (we need to see) how we can work more closely together with the Health Promotion Board and hospitals... This is a very important initiative."

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health, and Ms Joan Pereira, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, joined Mr Heng on the visit.

Dr Khor said the pilot programme could lead to stronger partnerships between the help groups and better coordinate support services.

The TKSAC is in Ms Pereira's Henderson-Dawson ward, which now has a network that is similar to the Community Networks for Seniors pilot.

The network is coordinated by the Henderson-Dawson Citizens Consultative Committee.

Ms Pereira gave an example of an existing programme to help socially isolated seniors.

Students are involved in befriending the elderly, shopkeepers and hawkers help to provide food rations and financial help, while welfare groups offer therapy and counselling services.

She said she hopes the Community Networks for Seniors will be piloted in her ward.

"It can build on what we already have and we can reach out to more people in a systematic approach."

No firm date has been set for the start of the programme.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2016, with the headline 'Scheme to help seniors will be piloted soon'. Print Edition | Subscribe