Govt schemes alone not enough to meet complex social needs: Lawrence Wong

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong speaking at the gala dinner organised by Care Corner, on May 6, 2022. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - Singapore has made major moves to support those who need help, and will continue to do more - but state initiatives alone are not enough, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong.

As social needs get more complex, partnership with community organisations is essential, he added.

"More government does not mean all the problems will disappear. Sometimes, more government can mean problems get worse too," the minister said on Friday (May 6) at a gala dinner organised by non-profit group Care Corner.

“Government schemes will never be able to replace the warmth and the personal touch of community groups and volunteers.”

The charity event, held at Orchard Hotel, was organised to celebrate Care Corner's 40th anniversary. It was attended by nearly 400 guests and raised an estimated $850,000.

Care Corner was set up in 1981, and originally provided counselling services to low-income workers over the phone. It has since expanded its scope and now runs programmes for a variety of groups, including at-risk youth and vulnerable seniors.

Next week, it will be given the Asean Rural Development and Poverty Eradication Leadership award - an accolade for non-governmental organisations from the region that have played a key role in eradicating poverty and enriching communities.

Like Care Corner, Singapore has made significant progress over the years, Mr Wong said.

But new social challenges have emerged, including the higher care needs of an ageing population and the increasingly difficult task of ensuring social mobility.

"The more well-to-do parents will understandably spend more resources to prepare their children at an early age," the minister said.

"But those who are less well-off will then feel the pressure to keep up, and will be  concerned that their children will be left behind."

As Singapore renews its social compact for a post-pandemic world, it will work to strengthen social safety nets and keep paths open for upward mobility, added Mr Wong, who is Care Corner's patron.

"But we cannot solve our problems solely through state initiatives and more government alone... In fact, our most effective social programmes and interventions in Singapore are achieved through partnerships."

The strength of these partnerships will increasingly determine Singapore's ability to achieve successful outcomes in its social interventions and programmes, he added.

One example is Care Corner's Circle of Care programme, which was started in 2013 as a partnership with the Lien Foundation.

The scheme, which helps disadvantaged children manage the transition from pre-school to primary school, has since grown to involve other partners. Experts in different fields - including social workers and educational therapists - work together to make it a success.

Care Corner chairman Yong Lum Sung highlighted three lessons learnt over the past four decades. These are the importance of remaining humble and grounded, having the courage to innovate, and constantly collaborating with like-minded partners.

"We cannot hope to do everything on our own. We also do not want to duplicate work others can do better than us," he said.

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