Budget debate: New programme to help families and couples with marital woes

The programme will be rolled out at various locations across Singapore over the next three years.
The programme will be rolled out at various locations across Singapore over the next three years.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A new programme offering a suite of services helping families facing marital and family relationship woes will be rolled out at various locations across Singapore over the next three years.

The Strengthening Families Programme @ Family Service Centres (SFP @ FSC) by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will bring together programmes and support services for marriage and divorce.

These include marriage preparation courses, programmes that provide support for couples who marry young and transnational couples and programmes run by the Divorce Support Specialist Agencies (DSSA).

The MSF will also introduce a new family counselling service under the SFP @ FSC so that families can get help to mend relationship fissures early, said Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xue Ling.

She was responding to Mr Melvin Yong (Radin Mas) and Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) on the MSF's efforts to strengthen family and couple relations as well as mitigate the negative impact of divorce on the children.

She said of the new programme: "Bringing early risk family services under the SFP @ FSC allows better oversight of family services and a greater integration of support for families with multiple needs.

"To address multi-faceted and complex family issues, the SFP @ FSC will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of professionals skilled in family counselling, financial counselling and psychology."

Each SFP @ FSC serves a region in Singapore so that it is more convenient for families to seek the help they need near their home.

There will be 10 SFP @ FSCs over the next three years.

And in the wake of Covid-19, the programme will also make use of online platforms to improve accessibility to services.

Meanwhile, the four DSSA will be folded into the new SFP @ FSC. This will make it more convenient as families can go to the nearest centre to attend the programmes run by the DSSA, Ms Sun said.

The SFP @ FSC initiative comes after a successful pilot programme run by Care Corner Singapore and Fei Yue Community Services in 2019. These two social service agencies ran marriage, parenting and divorce support programmes as one programme.

Ms Marie Yeo, cluster head of the Strengthening Families Programme @ Fei Yue FSC, said the programme allows social workers to better identify the different needs a family may have and to refer them to the other programmes that the family may need.

For example, her colleagues counselled one couple who were on the verge of divorce. Along the way, they realised their nine-year-old daughter was displaying negative emotions that vexed her parents.

So they taught the mother how to communicate with and handle her daughter, and their relationship improved.

Ms Yeo said: "The feedback from our clients has been very positive so far. They like the fact they can access the different services without much fuss and they don't have to repeat their stories."

During the debate on MSF's budget on Friday (March 5), Ms Sun also said the Taskforce on Family Violence, which she is co-chairing with Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, is developing recommendations to break the cycle of abuse and offending.

The recommendations come under four broad thrusts:

- Increasing awareness and strengthening social attitudes against violence;

- Making it easier for victims and the community to report violence and get help;

- Strengthening protection for victims to reduce their risk of being harmed again; and

- Strengthening the rehabilitation of perpetrators.