Debate on ministries' budgets

More coordination to make it easier for needy to get help

Plans are afoot to make it easier for the needy to seek and receive help from any front-line officer at a community or government agency, as part of the SG Cares national movement to foster a more caring society.

These officers will be armed not only with knowledge of what their agency provides, but also a range of other aid schemes.

This means different agencies will share information and better coordinate their services to ensure people get the help they need, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said during the debate on his ministry's budget yesterday.

"As far as possible, they should not need to submit the same documents, repeat their circumstances or fill in multiple application forms asking for similar information.

"This will help reduce the burden often faced by low-income individuals who may be in distress or urgent need," he added.

Two other ministries also told the House of their SG Cares efforts.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) is encouraging more people and companies to volunteer, said its minister Grace Fu, while the Health Ministry is building a network of volunteers to support seniors, announced Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

For example, the Government has brought various service groups together in pilot projects in Bedok and Jurong East to serve seniors. The collaboration allows the groups to identify the residents' needs and find ways to meet them.

MCCY plans to replicate this model in other towns.

Elaborating on how the Ministry of Social and Family Development will make it easier for people to apply for aid, Mr Lee gave the example of mothers or single parents who work or are seeking work and getting ComCare help.

In such a case, the ministry will automatically assess their eligibility to get extra childcare subsidies and other financial aid when their child is enrolled at a childcare centre. They do not have to apply for such aid.

Mr Lee told Dr Lily Neo (Jalan Besar GRC) and Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin (Sembawang GRC) that coordination among different agencies will continue to be improved so that needy families, who face a host of complex problems, get help in a more holistic manner.

The ministry is also looking at locating complementary services - such as family service centres, which provide counselling and other help, and Social Service Offices, which give government financial aid - in the same premises.

Social workers interviewed say better coordination of help services prevents people from falling through the cracks and avoids the duplication of resources.

A 51-year-old single mother who is partially blind and receives government aid had a teenage son who was suicidal.

The boy was counselled by a social worker, who liaised with his school to keep tabs on him.

Besides the social worker, staff from different agencies, ranging from Samaritans of Singapore to the grassroots, came together to lend the family a hand.

The mother: "I didn't have to run around looking for help. They came together to find ways to help me. They let me know there was hope and help."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2018, with the headline 'More coordination to make it easier for needy to get help'. Print Edition | Subscribe