Budget debate: 2022 to be the Year of Celebrating Singapore Families

This year will also see the introduction of National Family Week as an annual event in the month of June. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The year 2022 will be designated as the Year of Celebrating Singapore Families, Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli told Parliament on Thursday (March 10).

"(It) will rally Singaporeans to celebrate the important role that families play in our lives, encourage families to spend time together and galvanise whole-of-society support for families," he said during the debate on his ministry's budget.

The new campaign, which will kick off on Saturday (March 12), is led by the Families for Life (FFL) Council, with support from the Alliance for Action to Strengthen Marriages and Family Relationships.

There will be events throughout the year to celebrate the importance of families, with collaborations involving government agencies, companies, community partners and individuals.

One such initiative is the FamilyTrees initiative, a collaboration between the National Parks Board and the FFL to celebrate strong, inter-generational family bonds, that will be launched this Saturday.

The initiative will allow parents to commemorate the birth of their child by planting a tree, which will serve as a reminder of the enduring role that families play in everyone's lives, said Mr Masagos.

All eligible families with babies born this year and after will get this opportunity.

A new family zone at Gardens by the Bay will also be launched in the later part of this year, said Mr Masagos.

This year will also see the introduction of National Family Week as an annual event in the month of June. It will take place from June 4 to 12 this year.

The event will also see the launch of FFL's family values resources - which highlight the core family values of love, care and concern, commitment and respect - and its new mascot Becky Bunny.

Becky Bunny is an adventurous rabbit, meant to help parents discuss things with their young children and take part in shared activities together.

The ministry is also working to strengthen support for marriages, said Mr Masagos.

It will be increasing the number of centres offering the Strengthening Families Programme@Family Service Centre to 10, up from five today, by end-2022, he said.

These centres provide a safe and confidential space for families facing relationship problems to reach out for professional help and to build resilience. 

The ministry will also be engaging with members of the public and stakeholders through the Alliance for Action to Strengthen Marriages and Family Relationships' network and partners to explore how to strengthen families together as a society.

This will culminate in the Celebrating SG Families Plan, which will set out Singapore society's commitment and support for families, said Mr Masagos. It will be unveiled at the CIFA Regional Symposium and MSF Asian Family Conference 2022 in November.

Also speaking at the debate, Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling said Families for Life @ Community (FFLC) was piloted in Chua Chu Kang and Nee Soon Central towns last year, and more than 2,000 families participated. FFLC will progressively be expanded to more towns, she said.

This initiative seeks to make marriage, parenting and grandparenting programmes more accessible in the community and facilitate the formation of locale-based parents' support groups.

Ms Sun also said the ministry is partnering a social service agency to pilot a child-minding service outside childcare centres' operating hours.

This was in response to Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), who had asked about support for single parents, who may struggle with finding help at the last minute when they have to go to work. He proposed a pilot ad hoc and low-cost nanny service scheme.

Mr Gary Shen, 40, a banking executive, with his family in their Buangkok home on March 9, 2022. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Mr Gary Shen, 40, a banking executive, welcomed the decision to dedicate 2022 to celebrating the family. Mr Shen is married to Ms Zhou Sihui, 40, a human resources executive, and has two children - a daughter, six, and a four-year-old son. They have a baby girl on the way, due this month.

"It is a good time for reflection and to remember not to take things for granted. Pre- Covid-19, maybe some children will find excuses not to join family gatherings. But now everybody treasures these opportunities more than ever," he said.

"Family is the life jacket in the stormy sea of life," he added, citing a quote he had come across. For example, he said, his parents-in-law and his parents help take care of his young children when he and his wife are at work.

Mr Shen added that he is looking forward to the parent support groups, especially to better manage mental health.

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