Parliament: Social services considered essential, will continue to operate from April 7 to May 4

The Silver Generation Office reaches out to vulnerable seniors such as those living alone or those who are frail. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Social service offices (SSOs), selected senior care centres, residential and home-based care services, and community mental health services are considered essential services, said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee on Monday (April 6).

These will continue to provide support for their patients, users and clients, with precautionary measures in place when "circuit breaker" measures take effect from Tuesday to May 4 to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Adult and child protective services are similarly considered essential services and will continue to operate.

Mr Lee told Parliament his ministry and other government agencies have also stepped up measures to address various needs arising from the Covid-19 outbreak.

"Our SSOs proactively contact past and present ComCare clients who have been issued quarantine orders or stay-home notices to see if they require any financial assistance, and facilitate their applications where needed," he said.

"We have also made the application process more convenient by allowing them to submit their documents electronically."

Mr Lee said his ministry will work with the People's Association to provide other forms of help, like help to buy food and groceries, if the person under quarantine or stay-home notice does not have any such support from their families, neighbours or other parties.

He was replying to Nominated MP Anthea Ong, who asked what measures are being taken to support low-income Singaporeans and families, as well as vulnerable groups such as seniors and those with disabilities or mental health conditions.

Mr Lee said that although activities at senior activity centres have been temporarily halted as an added precaution for seniors, the centres' staff continue to watch over the seniors in their service boundaries and check on them remotely, where necessary.

"The Silver Generation Office reaches out to vulnerable seniors such as those living alone or those who are frail," said Mr Lee.

"Since last month, Silver Generation Ambassadors have started visiting these seniors in their homes to communicate Covid-19 precautionary measures, such as hygiene tips and social distancing.

"They also identify seniors who require additional assistance during this period, and link them up with the appropriate social service agencies and service providers to ensure their needs are met."

Mr Lee said the Covid-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of a "whole-of-society approach to tackling crisis".

He cited several examples of communities rallying to support each other, including an outpouring of support from corporate entities, unions, volunteer groups, grassroots organisations and religious organisations to support the vulnerable.

"This is important because caring for one another, and especially the vulnerable, is not simply a collective responsibility, but a national imperative during crisis," he said.

"Beyond cushioning the economic impact, it is also about sustaining relationships and strengthening our social capital as a collective.

"Covid-19 may have brought challenges for us, but this is also an opportunity for us to strengthen our bonds and build a stronger society."

Correction note: This article has been updated for accuracy.

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