Coronavirus: Food charities, counselling agencies among those approved to continue providing essential aid

The Food Bank Singapore staff sorting out donated food on Dec 26, 2019. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Major food charities have been given the go-ahead to continue delivering cooked food and food supplies to those in need.

Various counselling agencies run by social service agencies have also got the green light.

The Ministry for Social and Family Development (MSF) had previously said on Monday (April 13) that social service agencies and volunteer groups can apply to the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) for permission to run services that provide essential aid during the month-long circuit breaker.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, a ministry spokesman said on Thursday that NCSS is currently reviewing the plans of social service agencies (SSAs) distributing aid.

"Major food charities such as Willing Hearts, Food from the Heart, Food Bank and Free Food For All have been white-listed to continue with the delivery of cooked food and food supplies to those in need," she added.

The white-listed counselling agencies are providing counselling services remotely, and will complement the National Care hotline launched earlier this month to provide emotional support to those distressed by the Covid-19 crisis.

The MSF had previously said that only selected social service facilities providing essential services should remain open during the circuit breaker period, such as the social service offices, which administer the Government's financial aid schemes, shelters for the homeless and homes for youth offenders.

Non-essential social services have been suspended or reduced during this period.

"While we want to ensure that our vulnerable continue to be supported with essential aid, we need to also comply with the circuit breaker by minimising movement and interaction of people to reduce the risk of virus transmission through the community," said the MSF spokesman.

She added: "To protect our beneficiaries, staff and volunteers, we therefore require tight coordination and mutual support among agencies and community groups so that the vulnerable receive essential aid even as we adhere to the stringent safe distancing measures."

For social service agencies to remain open during this time, they must be serving an essential and urgent need that is not already being met and comply with precautionary measures before NCSS can consider whitelisting them, said the MSF spokesman.

"NCSS will also take into consideration the geographical distribution of SSAs and their beneficiaries when white-listing the agencies, to ensure that the delivery of essential aid is coordinated and the vulnerable are adequately served," she added.

The spokesman said that NCSS is expediting the process as it recognises the urgent nature of many of these white-listing applications.

This is so particularly for agencies involved in distributing food and rations, to ensure that aid reaches those in need timely.

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