Singapore Budget 2018: Support network for seniors to be expanded

Mr Willie Fox and his wife Lena joined the Community Networks for Seniors scheme two years ago when it was piloted in Tampines. They have taken part in activities such as exercises and bingo games organised by the senior activities centre near their
Mr Willie Fox and his wife Lena joined the Community Networks for Seniors scheme two years ago when it was piloted in Tampines. They have taken part in activities such as exercises and bingo games organised by the senior activities centre near their home.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Scheme involving voluntary welfare groups, volunteers, govt bodies to go national by 2020

Seniors can soon look forward to having stronger support networks near where they live.

The Community Networks for Seniors scheme, a programme piloted by the Government two years ago, will go national by 2020.

It involves government bodies, voluntary welfare organisations and volunteers teaming up to visit seniors, getting them involved in community activities, and caring for them when they turn frail.

The scheme was announced as a pilot project two years ago. Yesterday, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat declared the trial a success.

The programme can "meaningfully improve the lives" of seniors, he said.

Mr Heng noted that the Government has provided more help for citizens in the past decade through programmes such as MediShield Life, the Pioneer Generation Package and Workfare.

"The Government will continue to strengthen social safety nets for those in need," he said. "At the same time, individuals, families and the community play an important role in looking out for and supporting one another."

 
 
 
  • AT A GLANCE

  • • The Community Networks for Seniors programme, which encourages active ageing and helps lonely seniors find new friends, will be expanded across the country by 2020.

    • The Seniors' Mobility and Enabling Fund, which subsidises assistive devices and other items for the elderly, will get a $100 million boost.

    • In the next five years, $150 million will be spent on transporting older folk to subsidised eldercare and dialysis centres.

    • The existing Agency for Integrated Care will be the main coordinator of caregiving services for seniors and their caregivers.

    • The Pioneer Generation Office will be renamed Silver Generation Office and reach out to all seniors aged 65 and older. It will come under the Agency for Integrated Care.

The spirit of shared responsibility in tackling the challenges brought about by demographic and societal changes was why SG Cares, the national movement to build a caring society, was launched, he added.

The expansion of the support networks for seniors was welcomed by voluntary organisations.

Mr Kevin Lee, chief executive of social service organisation Awwa, said the scheme will encourage greater community involvement.

"As of now, our social workers act as eyes and ears, but it will be good to have additional resources with coordinated efforts in the community."

Mr Kavin Seow, senior director of the elderly group at Touch Community Services, added that the expansion of the programme is timely as it will encourage greater collaboration between government agencies and volunteer groups.

He also suggested expanding the network to more parties: "Not just government agencies and service providers, but also residents, hawkers, shopkeepers and schools too."

Private operators that provide services to seniors said they can also contribute to the network.

Ms Gillian Tee, co-founder of eldercare start-up Homage, which connects professional caregivers with seniors who need help, said private operators can play a supportive role to the government efforts to care for seniors.

Mr Tan Chien-Wei, co-founder of SilverAlly, a company that provides eldercare services such as medical transport and home-based nursing care to those who do not qualify for government subsidies, said: "These seniors need a network of support too."

Retired technician Willie Fox, 84, and his wife Lena, 88, welcomed the expansion of the scheme.

They joined it two years ago when it was piloted in Tampines.

The couple, who live by themselves in a studio flat, took part in activities such as exercises and bingo games organised by the senior activities centre near their home.

"(The network has) helped me make more friends," said Mrs Fox.

Besides giving more support for seniors, Mr Heng also announced yesterday that the Government is topping up two seniors' funds.

It is adding $300 million to the Community Silver Trust fund, which provides dollar-for-dollar matching for donations to volunteer organisations providing long-term care services, and $100 million to the Seniors' Mobility and Enabling Fund that subsidises equipment such as motorised wheelchairs.

More details of these schemes will be announced in the Budget debate starting next week.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2018, with the headline 'Support network for seniors to be expanded'. Print Edition | Subscribe