Chance for others to be involved in dialogue on social issues

The recent reports by Associate Professor Teo You Yenn and Dr Sudha Nair have turned the spotlight on families living in rental flats and struggling with multiple issues (Let's talk about meeting needs, not just equality of opportunity, May 30; Helping families find hope and courage to change, June 23).

I am a social worker in a community-based agency and our main client group consists of such families. My colleagues and I see the challenges they face on a daily basis. They make bad decisions, just like everyone else. The challenge is that these decisions can and may be costlier, both socially and economically, for them than families with more resources.

Thus, intrusive questions are asked and difficult conversations held - like the spending of money on a pack of cigarettes every day while only bringing back a daily take-home pay of $40.

I have observed the structural issues and policies which contribute to their circumstances and can trap these families.

Thus, I appreciate Assoc Prof Teo's recent report on low-income families living in rental blocks.

When poverty is a chronic concern, it takes more than an individual's or family's willingness to change either their spending habits or decision-making processes. Working alongside these families, we see people overwhelmed by problems and bad decisions.

With the spotlight on them, it is perhaps a good opportunity for more dialogue to happen, not just amongacademics and helping professionals, but with the families that struggle and the wider community, too.

This will allow us to put together a richer pool of practical solutions and social actions that work.

Chan Rho Szu (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2018, with the headline 'Chance for others to be involved in dialogue on social issues'. Print Edition | Subscribe