Helping youth, families out of poverty cycle

We agree with the points raised by Ms Lam Yin Yin in her Forum letter (Offer help to prevent youth from remaining in poverty cycle; Jan 5).

Doing this requires coordinated efforts across government agencies, and close partnership with the community.

The Education Ministry, for instance, set up Uplift, short for Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce. Among other issues, it looks at tackling long-term absenteeism, and stepping up parent engagement.

The National Committee on Prevention, Rehabilitation and Recidivism, co-led by the ministries of Social and Family Development (MSF) and Home Affairs (MHA), is another example. It works on preventing offending and re-offending, and strengthening rehabilitation of youth offenders.

For a start, nine voluntary welfare organisations have been appointed as Integrated Service Providers to run programmes for at-risk children and youth, and youth offenders.

MSF partners youth agencies to run Youth GO!, which uses informal and flexible programmes to reach out at local community congregation areas.

We invest heavily in early childhood education to try and give every child a good start in life. Initiatives such as the KidStart give children from low-income families early access to health, learning and developmental support.

MSF's network of 24 social service offices (SSOs) provides accessible and coordinated social assistance to families in need. In addition to ComCare assistance, SSOs link these households with other agencies so that they receive support for other needs, such as family services, social work intervention, housing and employment assistance.

For families that need more urgent help, community partners, including the family service centres (FSCs) and grassroots organisations, provide interim help in the form of financial assistance or other items, depending on their needs.

MSF is strengthening social service delivery to improve access to help. We are working towards more cross-agency sharing of information, co-locating complementary help services and progressively equipping front-line officers across Government and community agencies with better knowledge of various help schemes and services. This will help those in need receive more holistic assistance no matter which agency they first approach.

Everyone can play a part in helping vulnerable and low-income families. Members of the public who come across those who need help can call the ComCare hotline on 1800-222-0000 or visit our nearest SSO or FSC.

Kong Kum Peck (Ms)

Director

ComCare and Social Support Division

Ministry of Social and Family Development

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2019, with the headline 'Helping youth, families out of poverty cycle'. Print Edition | Subscribe