Groups can 'boost cooperation to better help needy'

Mr Tan and Mr Saktiandi (both in second row) joining residents in a performance yesterday during a ministerial community visit to Toa Payoh East-Novena ward.
Mr Tan and Mr Saktiandi (both in second row) joining residents in a performance yesterday during a ministerial community visit to Toa Payoh East-Novena ward.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

This will allow resources to be used more efficiently: Tan Chuan-Jin

Community groups can work more with one another to ensure better use of resources to help the down and out, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan- Jin said yesterday.

This will avoid duplicating services for those in need, and ensure that workers' and volunteers' time is used more efficiently, he added.

Mr Tan noted that currently, some groups are reluctant to share information with one another as they may not know the other sides' approach.

He encouraged MPs to bring different groups together so they can build rapport among themselves: "There's actually a lot of resources on the ground, and when they begin to know each other better, they'll see themselves working together as a team."

Mr Tan was speaking to reporters after a ministerial community visit to Toa Payoh East-Novena ward in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.

Such visits are organised regularly by the People's Association to enable newer ministers to get a better understanding of ground issues.

The minister cited how different groups, like those from a church, mosque or voluntary welfare organisation, may run their own meal delivery programmes for the needy. One way they could work together is to split up the delivery days among themselves, he suggested.

He noted that such groups have already come a long way: "In the past, you would see an issue being 'ding-donged' from one group to another. Now you see them taking the lead, talking to one another."

He said: "Nobody feels bad about it because they think, 'I know them, they are not trying to show us up.' "

Mr Tan added that while the Government can help to provide training, organise groups and collate feedback, it can only do so much.

"Ground-up initiatives complement government schemes, are targeted and allow people to play a part," he said. "It takes a whole kampung to make a difference."

He cited the ward's recent Quick Action Aid, which aims to provide help for families that suddenly find themselves in difficulties - such as after the death or retrenchment of a breadwinner - as an example of one such ground-up effort.

MP Saktiandi Supaat said grassroots leaders have raised about $50,000 to provide immediate support - within 48 hours - to families with children who have experienced a change of circumstances.

An affected child will get help of about $150 a month for between two and six months to cover day-to-day expenses before other agencies or voluntary organisations step in.

Besides financial support, the scheme also links affected families to neighbours with similar experiences, as a form of social support.

"There is a short gap between a change in a family's circumstances and when the agencies can step in," said Mr Saktiandi. "The fund tries to minimise that so that children, especially, will not experience too big a disruption, which can affect them greatly and permanently."

Mr Tan said better coordination among community groups to help residents in need could also strengthen participation from companies, which will "find it more compelling because they understand that it fits into the bigger picture, as opposed to just doing an activity".

Yesterday, Mr Tan also visited the Lorong 7 Toa Payoh Food Centre where he launched TEN Hot Meals, a programme that gives needy residents meal coupons so they can have warm food at participating hawker stalls.

Said Madam Chew Geok Choo, 68, who lives alone and benefits from the meals: "It is good for us to get a chance to have a variety of warm food, and that they try to get us out of the house to do so. It's not good to be cooped up alone at home."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2017, with the headline 'Groups can 'boost cooperation to better help needy''. Print Edition | Subscribe