Plans to bring social services closer to residents of rental flats

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said some families in rental flats end up seeking help from different agencies for their problems and, as a result, the agencies do not have a complete picture of how each family is faring.
Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said some families in rental flats end up seeking help from different agencies for their problems and, as a result, the agencies do not have a complete picture of how each family is faring.ST FILE PHOTO

Govt agencies, welfare groups will also work more closely to understand families' needs

Low-income residents living in rental flats will be able to get help more easily, with plans to bring social services closer to rental housing neighbourhoods.

They will also be spared from having to navigate the social service system to seek help, with more being done to improve the coordination between government agencies and voluntary welfare organisations.

Announcing the new approach to helping rental flat residents yesterday, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said that support can start from their point of entry into a rental flat until they move into their own purchased homes. "Public rental housing goes beyond shelter, and can serve as a gateway to more integrated social support," he added.

"While long-term housing stability and home ownership is key, it is equally important to work with families closely to help them resolve their issues and difficulties to improve their circumstances and achieve their potential."

He was speaking at the launch of a book on Project 4650, an initiative that brought together different government agencies and community groups to help residents in two Bedok South Interim Rental Housing (IRH) blocks.

He said while about 90 per cent of Singaporean households own their own homes, some families may end up needing rental housing due to serious challenges such as debt, financial difficulty and family conflict.

They often end up seeking help from different agencies for their problems and, as a result, the agencies do not have a complete picture of how each family is faring.

 
 

Under the new effort by the Ministry of Social and Family Development and Ministry of National Development, said Mr Lee, important services such as education and healthcare will be made more readily available to such families.

Government agencies and voluntary welfare organisations will also work together more closely to understand the families' needs. Mr Lee said foundations, corporate enterprises and other community groups are welcome to play a part, as are families living in the neighbourhood. The Government will provide community spaces, such as at void decks, for these organisations to provide services to the residents.

For a start, this new approach will be introduced in two or three neighbourhoods, said Mr Lee, who did not say where.

Commenting on the move, Ms Joyz Tan, centre head of Fei Yue Family Service Centre (Bukit Batok), said needy families are encouraged to seek help when social services are easily accessible. "If they pass by the office often and learn about its services for them, they may be more willing to step in one day."

The hope, said Mr Lee, is that these families will be able to improve their circumstances. "This should include more families being able to move out of rental housing and purchase their own home again so that their children will have a more stable environment to realise their potential," he added.

Citing the example of Project 4650 in Bedok South, he acknowledged the journey may not be easy.

Over the past five years, more than 1,100 families stayed at its two IRH blocks. Forty-three per cent moved on to own their own homes again, while 44 per cent secured public rental housing, and the rest found other living options.

"I think Project 4650 tells us that every family out there has the potential for change, to improve their lives, if only we have the right social intervention and the right support for them," said Dr Maliki Osman, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs, who initiated the project.

Salesman Tan Chin Chye, 60, was among those who managed to get a new flat after living there for a few years. He said the process had been disheartening at times, but was made easier by the social worker from Pave whom he worked with.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2018, with the headline 'Plans to bring social services closer to residents of rental flats'. Print Edition | Subscribe