Dialogue looks at ways to better help families in need

Participants cite complicated processes, feeling ashamed as barriers to assistance

New ways to strengthen families are necessary to make sure everyone gets the help needed, Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said yesterday.

He was speaking to reporters after a virtual dialogue with members of the Malay/Muslim community that aims to gather insights which can help shape policies.

The two-hour session, attended by more than 40 participants, saw some cite how complicated application processes and people feeling ashamed to seek help meant families were not getting the assistance they needed to cope during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Others were concerned that the less fortunate might be falling through the cracks, with one participant citing how families that could not afford laptops were in danger of being left behind as Covid-19 saw schools turn to home-based learning.

"We need to find new ways, and develop capabilities in strengthening families under the new norm. Also, this is to meet the different needs of the community," said Dr Faishal, who was at the dialogue with Parliamentary Secretary for Health Rahayu Mahzam.

The dialogue on strengthening Malay/Muslim families was the second of two under the Ciptasama@M3 programme, held as part of the Singapore Together Emerging Stronger Conversations.

These discussions aim to get Singaporeans to share their hopes and thoughts on how to shape a more caring, cohesive and resilient society post-Covid-19, including by working with one another and public agencies to shape policies.

The first dialogue last Thursday focused on seizing opportunities in the age of digital transformation, and was chaired by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Maliki Osman and Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Defence Zaqy Mohamad.

Yesterday, Dr Faishal and Ms Rahayu held up the participants and the community at large for continually looking out for the more vulnerable members.

Some participants talked about how they observed those around them donating funds to the less fortunate.

Others highlighted how community members lent a helping hand in other ways, with one participant sharing how she was impressed at the way young people readily volunteered for ground-up initiatives such as delivering food to the needy.

Dr Faishal held up how the community raised $3 million for the SGUnited Buka Puasa - a ground-up effort during the fasting month of Ramadan, which began in late April and coincided with the circuit breaker.

The amount, which was raised within a month of its launch, was used to distribute food to 20,000 front-liners and needy families on a daily basis.

"We saw people from all walks of life come forward," Dr Faishal said during the dialogue.

Introduced last year, Ciptasama@M3, or Co-creation@M3, aims to encourage members of the Malay/Muslim community to take part in policymaking.

It is an initiative under the M3 collaboration by three key community organisations: Mendaki, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore and the People's Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2021, with the headline 'Dialogue looks at ways to better help families in need'. Print Edition | Subscribe