Singapore GE2020: Govt is strengthening social safety net, says PAP's Desmond Lee

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee acknowledged the struggles of various groups who had been hard hit by the outbreak. PHOTO: PAP

SINGAPORE - Singapore's social safety net has been strengthened amid the Covid-19 pandemic, said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee.

He acknowledged the struggles of various groups who had been hard hit by the outbreak, and outlined the support schemes the Government has put in place to help them.

Vulnerable and low-income households have been particularly hard hit, and 550 volunteers from the SG Cares Community Network have been helping them since last month, Mr Lee said.

About 550 volunteers under the SG Cares Community Networks have been reaching out to them, working closely with the Social Service Offices and government agencies to ensure they do not fall through the cracks.

"In two weeks, they have engaged 1,800 households living in rental flats and have referred more than 600 of them to agencies for further support," he said.

Applications for ComCare, which gives financial support to lower-income households, have gone up by 30 per cent compared with the same period last year - with an average of 4,000 new applications approved each month.

As for middle-income households who suddenly found themselves in crisis for job-related reasons, Mr Lee said there have been schemes to help them too.

In April, the Temporary Relief Fund disbursed $225 million to 450,000 Singaporeans. while over 35,000 applications have been approved so far for the Covid-19 Support Grant.

The Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme has seen over 150,000 applications, he added.

Mr Lee was speaking at a virtual Zoom PAP press conference on Wednesday (July 8).

Also speaking were Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and labour chief and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Ng Chee Meng.

Mr Chan spoke about the economic headwinds the country is facing, and suggested that the ruling People's Action Party would be best placed to lead the country through the crisis.

Mr Ng, the secretary general of NTUC, touched on the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package that offers 100,000 jobs, traineeships and training places.

In his speech, Mr Lee also spoke about psychological and emotional well-being.

"Even if you provide financial support but the will of individual and the family is broken by the stresses and strains, that will be a barrier to them being able to grasp opportunities that are provided by the economic and jobs agencies, and the labour movement," he said.

He cited initiatives such as the National Care Hotline, which has fielded calls from about 23,000 people since it was launched in April; the one-stop platform, which has resources on mental health; and a new Youth Mental Well-being Network, which gathers people's views on this topic.

Family violence has also gone up amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Lee said: "Our adult protection and child protection service saw a monthly average of 7 per cent more inquiries received over the months of April and May, compared with March before circuit breaker started. And in the current post-circuit breaker period, both these services have seen a 30 per cent increase in the average number of monthly inquiries compared with during the circuit breaker period."

The issue remains "very salient" and the authorities will keep an eye on it, he added.

On the issue of homelessness, Mr Lee said the Partners Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers (Peers) network helped over 500 rough sleepers during the circuit breaker period.

Finally, Mr Lee called on Singaporeans to look out for one another.

"If you can, join us in these networks and in order that over the next few months or even the next one or two years as we deal with this crisis economically, financially, we also uplift and support fellow Singaporeans," he added.

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