In recognition of the increasingly complex needs for social services in Singapore, the Tote Board has pledged $580.4 million to the Tote Board Social Service Fund (TBSSF) in an announcement at the Committee of Supply debate in March 2019.
This is the largest tranche of funds that has been provided to support various social support programmes over the next four years. TBSSF, administered by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), supports critical and strategic social service programmes for the needy and disadvantaged via social service agencies.
There are various reasons behind the need for this, ranging from Singapore’s vulnerable families and her ageing society to the growing need to provide better support to differently-abled people.
Strengthening Singapore’s social sector
Tote Board has pledged a total of $1.56 billion to the TBSSF between FY2006 to FY2022, and the latest tranche is the largest. In 2017, 14 new programmes supporting more than 6,700 service users were funded to support underserved social needs. For example, the “Early Reader and Love Without Walls” programme supported incarcerated mothers and their children through upstream early intervention and preventive work.
The funding received covered the operational costs of the programme, such as helping the mothers make audio recordings to be passed on to their children in an effort to help bridge the gap between them. Early educational intervention is also provided to help the children develop pro-social skills, improve literacy and achieve academic progression.
Delivering services well
The fund will also benefit caregivers who are receiving training to better cope with their caregiving responsibilities. In 2017, over 1,000 caregivers benefited from the caregiver training by Caregivers Alliance Limited (CAL).
CAL is a social service agency that reaches out to caregivers of persons with mental health conditions and aims to meet their needs through education, support networks, crisis support, and enabling self-care.
A caregiver who has benefited from the training is Ms Elizabeth Swee (above), who has been caring for her bedridden brother with physical and
mental disabilities and her sister with schizophrenia since they were young. She is also a caregiver to her father with dementia.
After her elder sister and co-caregiver suffered from a ruptured aneurysm in 2017, Ms Swee left her job to cope with her heavy caregiving responsibilities.
She says: “One challenge I faced was the societal stigma against persons with mental health conditions. My sister did not receive regular treatment due to ignorance and denial of her condition.
“That negative experience led me to become an advocate against mental health stigma. I was an active volunteer trainer for CAL and went on to work full-time with them.” Ms Swee facilitates training for caregivers as the staff in charge of the Caregivers-to-Caregivers Training Programme (C2C). Together with a co-trainer and a support leader, she spends two and a half hours per lesson teaching caregivers of persons with mental health conditions.
At these sessions, topics covered include self-care, medication, crisis management, communication and problem-solving. In addition, caregivers also have the chance to make friends with others who face similar challenges. She says: “I have been through a long journey as a caregiver. By sharing my experience during training, I hope to be a beacon to others who feel overwhelmed and lost. It gives me great satisfaction to know that the programme has benefited the caregivers, and that they are thankful.
“There are many who are unaware of this programme and I hope that after they read this article, they will realise that training is available to help them.” The C2C programme is offered free to caregivers as it is co-funded by Tote Board and other CAL funders.