Drive to improve coordination in tapping volunteers, resources: Indranee

Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah had earlier set out in a speech the approach the ruling party's fourth-generation leadership is taking to tackle inequality. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

An effort is under way to coordinate resources and community efforts on the ground, Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah said yesterday.

Also, training is being considered for those who want to volunteer so that they are conscious of the issues faced by those in need, she added.

Ms Indranee revealed this at a dialogue when responding to a representative from a social service agency, who said that there are many well-meaning people who want to help low-income families. But sometimes, they may end up doing more harm than good without an insight into issues such as poverty and inequality.

The dialogue was part of a conference held by the National University of Singapore's Social Service Research Centre. It was attended by about 300 people, including representatives from social service agencies, academics and policymakers.

Ms Indranee, who heads the Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce (Uplift) to better support students from disadvantaged backgrounds, had earlier set out in a speech the approach the ruling party's fourth-generation leadership is taking to tackle inequality.

Ms Carrie Tan, founder of the Daughters Of Tomorrow charity, asked the minister whether the Uplift Programme Office (UPO) can help sensitise volunteers before they hit the ground.

The UPO is going to be set up under the Ministry of Education to improve coordination in tapping community efforts and resources more systematically.

Ms Indranee said: "UPO is at the ministry level. We are still working out another piece, which is to do the coordination at the ground level. That is a work in progress and would involve working with welfare organisations and volunteer groups, and then we will see how the training can be done at that level."

Another issue raised was about people working in the gig economy.

Mr Fang Xinwei, a senior social worker at the Singapore Children's Society, said quite a number of those from low-income families are gig workers doing freelance work.

This deprives them of benefits such as annual leave and Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions, and as a result, many face difficulties owning a home or planning for retirement, he said.

Ms Indranee said the Manpower Ministry is studying the issue.

"Because like you, we are quite concerned with the gig economy, which gives a kind of short-term income. But like you point out, it doesn't build up (a person's) retirement reserves," she added.

She also said that these workers, who may struggle to find permanent employment can be helped through schemes such as SkillsFuture and Adapt and Grow, which help people to get new skills.

Those who may not have accumulated enough retirement savings in their CPF account already receive cash handouts from the Government's Silver Support scheme for needy seniors, she added.

For those who are at a young age now, what they really hope for is that "when they become older, by the time they retire, they won't be in a position where their reserves are low. So, we will have to try and figure out a way to help them build up their reserves", she said.

Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2019, with the headline Drive to improve coordination in tapping volunteers, resources: Indranee. Subscribe