Integrated social services for rental housing tenants to help families achieve stability: Desmond Lee

Project 4650 targets help for residents in two Bedok South Interim Rental Housing (IRH) blocks.
Project 4650 targets help for residents in two Bedok South Interim Rental Housing (IRH) blocks.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - To better support low-income families living in rental flats, social services delivery to them will soon be enhanced - to ensure they get the help they need right from the start, said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee on Wednesday (July 25).

Key social services will be brought closer to rental housing precincts, and government agencies and volunteer welfare organisations will work more closely to coordinate services so that they can develop a joint action plan for these families, he added.

Foundations and social enterprises are also welcome to play a part, and so are families who wish to serve their own community, said Mr Lee.

For a start, this new mode of social service support will be introduced in two to three neighbourhoods, with the Ministry of Social and Family Development and Ministry of National Development joining hands in the effort.

"Public rental housing goes beyond shelter, and can serve as a gateway to more integrated social support," Mr Lee said.

He was speaking at the launch of a book on Project 4650, which targets help for residents in two Bedok South Interim Rental Housing (IRH) blocks.

The IRH scheme, started in 2009, houses needy families temporarily in Housing Board flats that have been vacated for future development.

Even as about 90 per cent of Singapore households own their homes, some families face serious challenges such as debts, disability, financial difficulty and family conflict, said Mr Lee.

 
 

As a result, "they have to approach different touch points and navigate the social service system", he added, noting that with help being provided by different groups, no single party has a complete picture about the family's situation.

This is why there is a need to integrate and coordinate social services, so there is a network helping to tackle issues that low-income families and  the vulnerable face, identifying gaps in the schemes that must be resolved, he said.

"While long-term housing stability and home ownership is key, it is equally important to work with families closely to help them resolve their issues," added Mr Lee.

As families regain their stability, he said, the authorities hope to empower those in rental housing to "uplift" themselves from their circumstances.

"This should include more families being able to move out of rental housing and purchase their own home again, so that their children will have a more stable environment to realise their potential," he added.

Citing the example of Project 4650 in Bedok South, Mr Lee acknowledged that the journey may not be easy.

Over the past five years, more than 1,100 families stayed at its two IRH blocks, and almost half of them moved on to own their HDB flats again. A number moved into other rental flats, while a small group found other living options.

Dr Maliki Osman, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs, who led the initiative, said: "I think Project 4650 tells us that every family out there has the potential for change, to improve their lives, if only we have the right social intervention and the right support for them."