Location, location, location, goes the old adage in many areas of business, from retail to real estate. Not surprisingly, social workers too see location as an important enabling factor in social services. Under a pilot programme unveiled by Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee last week, some public rental housing tenants, who come from lower-income bands, will have key services sited closer to them. In addition, various government agencies and non-profit groups that help the families will formulate joint plans for assisting them. For a start, these changes will happen in two to three neighbourhoods. There are many reasons why rental flat tenants may not be getting help, or may not be getting bespoke help according to their circumstances. Some are not aware that further assistance applies in their situation, beyond the subsidies built into a rental flat. Others have vague notions that such help exists, but do not know who to talk to or where the service points are. Then, there are those who are uncomfortable about proactively seeking aid as long as they can get by with their own resources.
This new model of social service delivery being piloted could prove beneficial to many people in these situations. A closer location raises awareness, lowers travel cost and encourages potential beneficiaries to overcome mental barriers they may have. It also makes possible more frequent meetings, which may mean timely interventions when new problems surface. As the Chinese saying goes, "A neighbour close by is better than a distant relative." The joint assistance plan by different organisations interacting with each family could ensure that a full picture of the family's situation is available - which, in turn, may result in more holistic plans that are, at the same time, more surgical in targeting the most urgent needs the family faces at any point in time.