Tan Chuan-Jin 'always had a heart for the less privileged'

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin speaking to the media at a Seventh Month auction dinner at the Lorong Koo Chye Sheng Hong Temple Association last night. Mr Tan will be nominated as Speaker of Parliament on Monday to replace Madam Halimah Yacob, who had resigned to
Mr Tan Chuan-Jin speaking to the media at a Seventh Month auction dinner at the Lorong Koo Chye Sheng Hong Temple Association last night. Mr Tan will be nominated as Speaker of Parliament on Monday to replace Madam Halimah Yacob, who had resigned to contest the upcoming presidential election.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Ask observers what Mr Tan Chuan-Jin has achieved as Minister for Social and Family Development in the past two years, and the replies come thick and fast.

He started KidStart to help children from disadvantaged families level up. He helped push for unwed mothers to get 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, like married mothers, instead of eight weeks. He also worked to raise the profile of pre-school teachers.

Mr Seah Kian Peng, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family Development, said: "He is very passionate about social causes. It will be a waste if that passion and conviction cannot be put to good use.

"Chuan-Jin has always had a heart for the less privileged, which includes the poor and elderly, but also people from broken families and single mothers."

Yesterday's announcement that Mr Tan would resign from his ministerial post took observers in the social service sector by surprise, but they said they were glad he would still be involved in the sector in other ways. Mr Tan, 48, will be nominated as Speaker of Parliament by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong when the House sits on Monday.

But he will continue to oversee SG Cares, a national movement that encourages volunteerism, and be appointed adviser to the National Council of Social Service, where he is currently its patron. He will also continue to lead Marine Parade GRC.

 

Chiltern House principal Iris Lim said she appreciated Mr Tan's efforts to raise the profile of pre- school teachers. For instance, from this year, childcare centres could close for an extra half-day. Last week, he joined pre-schoolers in performing the song, You Are My Sunshine, to pay tribute to pre-school teachers. The video was posted on his Facebook page on Teachers' Day.

Ms Lim said: "I think that allowed teachers to know that he appreciates all of them, and it narrowed the distance between the teachers and the Government. He is quite a down-to-earth person."

Other people in the social service sector also said he was approachable, and has engaged the community.

Mr Keh Eng Song, former chief executive of the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore, said Mr Tan's Facebook posts can attest to how well he engages the public. "Detractors aside, it does come across that he continues to engage regardless," said Mr Keh.

Mr Tan has written on Facebook on topics ranging from the cinnamon buns his daughter baked to why some working adults still need financial aid.

Disabled People's Association president Nicholas Aw said: "Mr Tan shared with me his experience of trying to navigate pavements using a wheelchair. His frank sharing about how difficult it is in some areas showed me that he is willing to admit when there is more work to be done."

Despite the progress, some work remains to be done, said others.

Mr Desmond Lee, 41, now Second Minister for National Development, will take over from Mr Tan at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

Ms Jolene Tan, the Association of Women for Action and Research's head of advocacy and research, said: "Mr Tan's tenure at MSF saw important movement towards achieving inclusion for single-parent families.

"We hope Mr Lee will build on this to tackle the challenge of housing for single-parent families, which he is well placed to do given his experience in the Ministry of National Development."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2017, with the headline 'Tan Chuan-Jin 'always had a heart for the less privileged''. Print Edition | Subscribe