Addenda to President's Address: Support for family, mental well-being to be enhanced

MSF will review and boost social safety nets, tackle inequality alongside MOE; more help for disadvantaged students in the works

A room for tutoring students at Marsiling Community Link in Woodlands Street 13 in January. Schemes to team up groups to actively reach out to those who need support will be expanded, including SG Cares Community Networks and Community Link initiativ
A room for tutoring students at Marsiling Community Link in Woodlands Street 13 in January. Schemes to team up groups to actively reach out to those who need support will be expanded, including SG Cares Community Networks and Community Link initiatives that serve lower-income households.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Singaporeans hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis will continue to get support from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), which will be reviewing and strengthening the country's social safety nets.

Support for mental and family well-being will also be boosted, said Minister Masagos Zulkifli yesterday in his ministry's addendum to the President's Address.

The Government will also monitor the economic situation and consider the need to introduce new support schemes or make structural changes to social policies, the MSF said in response to queries.

These are among a raft of measures from the ministry's action plan to help people cope with the crisis and ensure social mobility.

"The crisis will not divert us from our efforts to improve social mobility," the minister said, adding that MSF will dovetail its efforts with those of the National Jobs Council to train Singaporeans and help them find jobs.

Schemes to team up groups to actively reach out to those who need support will also be expanded, including SG Cares Community Networks and Community Link initiatives that serve lower-income households.

"This has become especially important, as Covid-19 has exacerbated the challenges faced by vulnerable segments of our society who have less resources to buffer against the impact," said Mr Masagos.

The MSF's agenda includes: reaching out to people with disabilities and their caregivers; encouraging family-friendly practices such as flexible work and work-from-home arrangements; and adopting a more preventive approach and better rehabilitative methods to help youth at risk and offenders.

To ensure that every child can start off on the same footing, KidStart will be expanded to benefit more children.

This is a programme for disadvantaged children that provides advice and support to families in areas such as child development and parent-child interaction.

 

The MSF's efforts to tackle inequality will be augmented by the Ministry of Education (MOE), which also released its addendum yesterday.

"With Covid-19's disproportionate impact on the disadvantaged, we are redoubling our efforts to make sure no child is left behind," Minister Lawrence Wong said.

Partnerships under the MOE's Uplift initiative, which sees schools and the community working together to support students from disadvantaged families, will be deepened to further help students.

In addition, new opportunities will be created for students of different backgrounds to interact and build bonds with one another, such as through co-curricular activities.

 
 

With blended learning - mixing classroom lessons with online lessons - becoming an integral feature of the curriculum from next year, all secondary school students will get personal digital learning devices by the end of next year.

The MOE will also continue to shift away from an academic-focused approach, by pouring more resources into helping students develop holistically, and helping Singaporeans acquire skills.

Aptitude-based admissions at the six autonomous universities will be widened, and more common entry programmes introduced in polytechnics and universities so that students have more time to decide on their academic specialisations.

More subsidised training pathways will also be opened for Institute of Technical Education graduates and working adults.

 
 
 

Students can also get more support with a boost in the number of counsellors, allied educators and teachers. Teachers' skills in working with students with special needs will be improved, too.

Said Mr Wong: "In the midst of crisis, we are seizing opportunities to reshape our education system for the longer term, and to accelerate improvements in the way we teach and learn."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2020, with the headline 'Support for family, mental well-being to be enhanced'. Subscribe