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Befrienders to handle Pioneer Generation Package queries

About 450,000 elderly Singaporeans will be receiving letters from the government this week, informing them of the benefits they will get from the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP).

SINGAPORE: About 450,000 elderly Singaporeans will be receiving letters from the government this week, informing them of the benefits they will get from the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP).

They will also be getting their Medisave top-ups from July, with the Ministry of Finance saying about $210 million will be disbursed to pioneers this year.

Some 500 grassroots leaders, who are members of the "befrienders" programme for the People's Association's Women's Executive Committee, will be trained to handle queries from the elderly.

Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor conducted one such training session on Sunday morning.

The day-long training session covered details of the PGP as well as updates to the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) and the MediShield Life as it relates to the pioneer generation.

The session was also a chance for the "befrienders" to practise their communication skills for the time when they hit the ground running.

"We can understand better the senior citizens and what they are facing...the way we approach to communicate with them, especially those with different medical problems," said Noriani Osman, a "befriender".

"The main challenge for me is information overload because I feel that there is so much inside the package (PGP). A lot of goodies (in the PGP), but how do we systematically translate these to the seniors who may not be able to absorb everything at one go. So it's important for us to understand what it's all about so that we can put it simply across to our residents," said Joanna Portilla, another "befriender".

The "befrienders" will pass on the information to beneficiaries through house visits and community events.

Dr Khor said the plan is to reach out to more grassroots leaders and work with volunteer welfare organisations.

More than 1,000 frontline healthcare staff at polyclinics and specialist outpatient clinics, for example, have also been trained.

Dr Khor said: "There are different layers: we need grassroots volunteers to tell them at the top layer, for instance, what are the key components of the PG Package, not so much the details, so that they are aware (of the package). If they are aware, then there will be greater assurance and peace of mind.

"Over time, they will need more information, because when they access the healthcare institutions for different treatments, different questions will come up. And that's where we need to continually train volunteers."

She said the government is also looking out for a group of volunteers who are able to commit more time for intensive training to explain not just the Pioneer Generation Package but other healthcare schemes too, particularly MediShield Life.

Dr Khor said: "We can provide them with that training so that they can be resource persons that residents including the pioneers can approach."

She said the government will also conduct surveys from time to time to find out how effective outreach efforts have been and whether volunteers are reaching their target audience.

Dr Khor said all frontline health care staff at public healthcare institutions will be trained by September 1 when the pioneer generation subsidies kick in.

Separately, an appeals panel will be set up to consider the cases of those who are ineligible for the Pioneer Generation Package after marginally failing to meet the criteria.

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