Social service offices go the extra mile for clients

Video conferencing is offered at two social service offices in Geylang Serai and Bedok as part of a pilot. Users can speak to officers at the HDB, SG Enable or the Special Needs Trust Company.
Video conferencing is offered at two social service offices in Geylang Serai and Bedok as part of a pilot. Users can speak to officers at the HDB, SG Enable or the Special Needs Trust Company.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Use of video conferences to link individuals with other agencies helps save them hassle of travel

To save clients with multiple needs the hassle of travelling between different agencies, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is providing video-conferencing services at two social service offices to connect individuals with the agencies they need to reach.

MSF said plans are under way to set up video conferencing at more social service offices and include more agencies.

The two social service offices in Geylang Serai and Bedok started their pilot of the service last month.

Through it, individuals can speak directly to officers at the Housing Board, SG Enable or the Special Needs Trust Company to have their queries addressed.

This saves them a trip to the agency offices, as well as paperwork, as the social service officers at the social service office can help forward the relevant documents and details.

During a visit to the Geylang Serai office yesterday, Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sam Tan said: "Over the years, we have realised that when families or individuals need the service and help from SSO (social service office), often they are in a very complex situation. They have many different complex needs.

"With the video-conferencing facilities, we hope to make our SSOs the first port of call and, hopefully, the only port of call for those who are in need of services and programmes, so that they don't have to run to many places."

CONVENIENT AND TIME-SAVING

The video conference was good because it was convenient and it did not waste my time. Due to my disease, I'm very weak. If I went to HDB directly, I might have to wait a few hours.

MS TUMINAH AHMAD, 58, a diabetes and cancer patient who has to attend multiple medical appointments.

Eight people have used the video-conferencing services at the two social service offices to communicate with HDB officers.

One of them, Ms Tuminah Ahmad, 58, spoke to an HDB officer to request to continue paying a subsidised rental rate after her tenancy is renewed in March.

That same day, HDB sent Ms Tuminah, who used to work as a part-time cleaner, a letter to notify her that her eligibility for the rental reduction was being reviewed.

Ms Tuminah, a diabetes and cancer patient who has to attend multiple medical appointments, said: "The video conference was good because it was convenient and it did not waste my time. Due to my disease, I'm very weak. If I went to HDB directly, I might have to wait a few hours."

 
 

In a similar vein, MSF has been working with government agencies to co-locate complementary services near social service offices.

For instance, in July last year, a Silver Generation Office satellite office in MacPherson moved to Geylang Serai to be located near the social service office there. Their proximity allows officers of both agencies to jointly interview elderly residents who have complex needs.

These initiatives are in line with MSF's plan to progressively strengthen social service delivery in the coming years.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2019, with the headline 'Social service offices go the extra mile for clients'. Print Edition | Subscribe