Social sector needs leaders with creative ideas to drive changes in post-Covid world, says President Halimah

President Halimah Yacob delivering her opening remarks at the NCSS 40-under-40 virtual dialogue session on Aug 12, 2020.
President Halimah Yacob delivering her opening remarks at the NCSS 40-under-40 virtual dialogue session on Aug 12, 2020.PHOTO: MCI

SINGAPORE - The social sector needs leaders who can come up with creative ways to help Singapore's vulnerable groups, whose lives and livelihood have been upset by the Covid-19 pandemic, said President Halimah Yacob.

The President, who was speaking to a group of 40 people aged below 40, called on them to be bold and innovative as they strive to bring change to the organisations they serve.

Her address on Wednesday (Aug 12), at the National Council of Social Service's (NCSS) 40-Under-40 programme, also praised Singapore's social service agencies for rising to the challenges created by the pandemic.

"I'm encouraged by the creativity and resourcefulness (they) have shown during this period." She noted that some have digitalised their functions and programmes, such as engaging seniors through video chat.

Still, the President added, the agencies need to look into how they can further collaborate across sectors and agencies to serve their beneficiaries better.

She also added that as agencies leverage more on technology, they must keep an eye on the issue of inequality.

"We don't want to have a situation where ... (it is) a lot harder for those from the lower income households to access opportunities and to have access to services," said Madam Halimah.

The three-day programme, which started on Tuesday, is to build a community of young leaders empowered to solve problems and drive change in anticipation of a new normal in the post-Covid-19 world.

The participants were nominated by social service agencies, social enterprises as well as organisations from the public and private sectors.

They also heard on Wednesday morning from Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration Desmond Lee, who was appointed Minister for National Development in the recent Cabinet reshuffle, and will hear from Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin on Thursday.

Mr Lee said: "It is timely for our next generation leaders to gather, identify and examine problems grappling the social service sector today, draw out collective learnings and together plan for the future beyond the Covid-19 pandemic."


NCSS president Anita Fam said: "In addition to being a leadership forum, the programme builds a network of the next generation of leaders who can, in turn, leverage each other's strengths and experiences to respond to increasingly complex needs."

Two young leaders - Ms Chen Shiling and Mr Mohamed Fareez Mohamed Fahmy - shared their experiences in working amid the pandemic.

Mr Fareez, 39, senior assistant director at AMKFSC Community Services, a social service agency that serves residents in Ang Mo Kio, said one major problem is families that do not have the basic equipment for home-based learning.

"We realised that having Wi-Fi and a tablet or computer is actually a basic need for every household... and this became even more emphasised during this Covid-19 pandemic," he added.

Ms Chen, 38, head of Hua Mei Intellectual Disability Service at non-profit organisation Tsao Foundation, said the pandemic has been a clear reminder of how a situation can change swiftly and suddenly.

She hopes to see greater integration in the social service sector as well as across sectors.

"It will actually bring about more efficiency, which is something we need to look at now with Covid-19 and all the resource limitations."