New programme matches at-risk children to available help

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, launched the Community Camp @ North East with Mr Tan Cheng Kiong, chief commissioner of Scouts Association on March 18.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, launched the Community Camp @ North East with Mr Tan Cheng Kiong, chief commissioner of Scouts Association on March 18.PHOTO: NECDC
The North East CDC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Social and Family Development, the Singapore Scouts Association, Students Care Service, Tampines West GROs and Trampolene Limited to establish the North East Integrated Care
The North East CDC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Social and Family Development, the Singapore Scouts Association, Students Care Service, Tampines West GROs and Trampolene Limited to establish the North East Integrated Care Programme @ Tampines West on Saturday (March 18). PHOTO: NECDC

SINGAPORE - More help is on the way for at-risk children and their families in Tampines West.

A new programme will put the various help schemes offered by different organisations into one system, to better match the schemes to those who need them and ultimately improve the social mobility of vulnerable individuals.

Three schools will be part of the pilot project, led by the North East Community Development Council (CDC). They are East View Primary School, Junyuan Primary School and Tampines Primary School.

Teachers, school counsellors and volunteers will first identify these vulnerable kids through a one-on-one screening. These kids could be financially needy, or simply have emotional issues because their parents are out of job or incarcerated, said general manager of the North East CDC Irene Lee.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has trained more than 200 teachers from the three schools on how to screen the needs of the children.

Social workers from the Students Care Service will then key the at-risk kids' details into an online system that will analyse and match their needs to more than 10 existing help schemes or programmes, such as the North East CDC's school meal fund which provides food vouchers to children. Other programmes include Tampines West Grassroots Organisations' (GROs) after-school mentoring programmes and camps organised by the Singapore Scouts Association.

The online system, developed by technology firm Trampolene Limited at a cost of $1.2 million, will also track the progress of the help given to individuals, to ensure that they do not fall through the cracks, added Ms Lee.

On Saturday (March 18), the North East CDC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the MSF, the Singapore Scouts Association, Students Care Service, Tampines West GROs and Trampolene Limited to establish the North East Integrated Care Programme @ Tampines West.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources and Adviser to Tampines GROs, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, who witnessed the signing, said: "The community can work together to provide holistic help for these at-risk children. The programme not only screens and monitors the needs of these children, it also engages them in activities that develop good discipline and character."

He added: "We hope that they would be able to overcome their challenges, and move on to realise a bright future."

Ms Ong Lee Choo, principal of East View Primary School, where the programme was first implemented in 2015 but on a smaller scale, said that the programme's structure allowed families to be referred to relevant community support agencies quickly, "enabling their children to progress in school and also in more stabilised home environment".

North East CDC's Ms Lee said the programme is a coordinated effort by the various organisation and hence a step forward compared to the help currently available for at-risk children.

"Schools tend to work in silos or at most with family services centres (to help vulnerable children). They may not be aware of the other help available," she said.

The programme not only helps children, but can also link their unemployed parents to job placement schemes, thus providing more all-round support, she added.

If the pilot project is successful, the programme could be rolled out to more schools in future, Ms Lee added.