Young people can suggest policy changes or champion initiatives through government programme

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu at the National Youth Council's youth engagement session on Jan 18, 2020. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Young people with a dream to make a difference to the lives of Singaporeans will now have a chance to pitch their ideas to relevant government or industry agencies.

The best 12 ideas can each get up to $50,000 in grants to kickstart the projects.

Those with a cause to champion or a suggestion to make can take part in the Youth Action Challenge, a six-month programme organised by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and the National Youth Council under the SG Youth Action Plan.

It was announced by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu on Saturday (Jan 18) afternoon.

Addressing 260 young people at the National Youth Council's youth engagement session at Raffles City Convention Centre, she said: "If we want a better Singapore, we have to roll up our sleeves and do the work."

Since September last year, young people aged 15 to 35 have been working in teams, mentored by leaders from various industries, communities and the Government, to come up with policy recommendations or ground-up initiatives.

The programme is in a competition format where more than 40 teams looking at three areas - the environment, societal issues, and jobs and the future of work - pitch their ideas to a panel of judges.

The 12 best teams will be selected as finalists to attend the Youth Action Challenge Summit in April, where they will pitch their ideas to 4G leaders, industry experts and key youth leaders to receive up to $50,000 each in grants to put their ideas into action.

The other teams will receive grants of up to $5,000 each for their projects.

"Building a strong society is not something that the Government can do alone. The Government does not have all the answers," said Ms Fu, who spoke about SG Together, a new movement by the 4G leaders to get citizens to help shape policies, announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in June last year.

"We are excited about the ideas and solutions coming out of the Youth Action Challenge," she added.

At a pitch session held separately on Saturday morning at Temasek Shophouse in Dhoby Ghaut, young people pitched ideas on issues such as inclusivity for those with special needs, better support for young people at risk and unique forms of therapy to promote mental wellness.

Full-time national serviceman Ernest Wong, 22, was part of a group of five who spoke to those in the special needs community and found that three key areas - public transport, polyclinics and hospitals, and shopping malls - could be more special-needs friendly.

They made suggestions to improve inclusion in these public spaces to a panel of five judges, including Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and for Culture, Community and Youth Sim Ann, at the session.

Some of the team's suggestions include having a special needs-friendly MRT train cabin like those for the elderly, or priority queues at polyclinics and hospitals, as a key concern for many parents of those with special needs was that they were afraid their children would disturb other members of the public.

"There are gaps in terms of facilitating inclusion in society in Singapore," said Mr Wong on behalf of his team.

"In terms of public spaces and services for the special needs community, it is not widely accessible, so that's why we embarked on this journey," he added.

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