Low-income families applying for public rental flat to get automatic ComLink support

Minister for National Development and Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration Desmond Lee (centre, in red) at a Forward SG event on Friday. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Families that have children and are applying for public rental flats will be automatically placed under the Community Link (ComLink) programme if they are eligible.

This ensures that low-income families will be given assistance once they move into these flats.

The new scheme was announced by Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, who is also Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration, at a Forward SG public engagement event on Friday.

The event at ITE College West saw about 200 staff and volunteers from social service agencies and social service offices, as well as members of the public, discussing ways to increase social mobility.

ComLink was started in 2019 to help coordinate social service support for poor families with multiple woes – for instance, when members of a household are unable to work because of health and caregiving issues.

Under the new scheme, a ComLink officer will contact the families even before they move into their rental flats and link them up with relevant assistance, as well as check on them.

Mr Lee cited the example of a Bukit Batok resident known as Mr Shah who, with his wife Madam Lina, struggled to support two young children after he had an accident at work.

A ComLink officer worked with the Bukit Batok social service office to provide ComCare financial assistance to the family, arrange for the children to attend KidStart playgroup sessions, and encourage the parents to enrol their children in pre-school.

Aside from government support, such families can also receive financial or other aid from social service agencies such as Fei Yue, YMCA and the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds).

The Housing Board received 10,240 requests for rental flats in 2021, of which 3,230 applications, or 32 per cent, were approved.

There are about 51,100 households living in public rental flats.

Mr Lee said the ComLink initiative has reached out to about 11,000 families in public rental housing as at October to find out what their needs are.

The programme is being expanded nationwide to 21 towns over two years to cover 14,000 families with children living in rental housing.

ComLink, which is under the Ministry of Social and Family Development, has secured about $2.7 million in donations for its programmes as at October.

Ms Fadzilah Zubir, 38, who attended Friday’s event, said she injured her spine in a fall in 2014 when her chair at her workplace broke. The divorced single mother of a 16-year-old son has not been able to work since.

After moving into a public rental flat in Bukit Batok, she applied to ComLink, which helped her get ComCare financial aid and linked her with various social service agencies to help her with her medical and living expenses.

Minds chief executive Kelvin Koh said: “The scheme will take anxiety away from rental housing families, who won’t need to do another set of applications (because) the moment they are on the rental scheme... their income (is automatically noted) and the rest of the services (needed) come in.

“Hopefully, with this first step, we can then rope in various entities to (provide) the help such families need.

“Because until we are able to sense and make sense of who these families are and what their needs are, the chances of us being able to develop programmes that are targeted and effective to address those needs are not always 100 per cent (effective).”

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