Networking sessions to be held for service groups to work together to help those in need: Desmond Lee

Ms Joan Pereira (left) and Minister Desmond Lee (centre) serving home-cooked porridge to Madam Wan Lau Lui, at Bukit Merah View Square on March 25, 2018.
Ms Joan Pereira (left) and Minister Desmond Lee (centre) serving home-cooked porridge to Madam Wan Lau Lui, at Bukit Merah View Square on March 25, 2018.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Help for needy individuals and families should be offered not in a piece-meal way, but in a concerted fashion by groups within the local community.

That is why networking sessions will be held for service groups to get to know one another and work together more effectively to help those in need, Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development, said on Sunday (March 25).

Social service offices, which come under his ministry, will be organising networking sessions town by town during the course of this year, he told reporters during a visit to Henderson-Dawson district on Sunday.

Said Mr Lee: "Networking is really not rocket science. A room, maybe a buffet, some food, (we can) bring together people from different organisations."

Ground representatives from groups such as family service centres as well as grassroots or voluntary welfare organisations (VWO) can "come together, exchange name cards, shake hands, make friends, put a face and name behind a telephone number and e-mail", he added.

It is also a chance for them to tell one another what their organisations stand for, the programmes they run and the gaps that they face, he said.

Mr Lee added that this will allow them to work with "all the relevant agencies, volunteer groups, to harness the strength of government schemes and community volunteers".

He cited the example of a group that works with youth at-risk, which appreciates help from family service centres, school counsellors or government agencies, as the group has no expertise in helping the families of these young people.

Yet it is important to look at these young people in their families and environment, he added.

"Organisation silos and divisions fade away once people know each other because we all have one common purpose... We want to make a sustainable impact and improve the lives of the vulnerable," he added.

During the debate on his ministry's budget earlier this month, Mr Lee spoke about plans to make it easier for the needy to receive help from any front-line officer at a community or government agency, who will be armed with not just knowledge of what their agency provides, but also a range of other aid schemes.

On Sunday, he added that networking sessions are also a way to rope in non-traditional groups, such as merchant associations and firms, which want to contribute to society.

A successful example of how service groups have come together to coordinate their services is the enhanced welfare committee that Ms Joan Pereira, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, had set up in her Henderson-Dawson ward in 2015. She brought together the VWOs, agencies and organisations that serve the same group of residents.

While previously a family might receive similar support from different organisations, the help offered is now streamlined by the welfare committee, which can look at how else the family can be assisted.

The committee, which meets every month, also keeps in touch via e-mail and a chat group to discuss how best to help people in need, Ms Pereira added.