SINGAPORE: A single ministry will now oversee social and health-related services for seniors, in a bid to improve and streamline the delivery of services, announced Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech on Monday (Feb 19).
He said where some social aged care programmes were previously administered by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), they will be transferred to the Health Ministry from Apr 1.
These social programmes include those that come under the MSF’s Senior Cluster Networks, including Senior Activity Centres (SACs), Cluster Support and other programmes such as its befriending services.
According to the Fei Yue Family Service Centre’s website, the Senior Cluster Networks allow authorities to better reach out and support vulnerable seniors within each HDB town, help them stay engaged and receive more coordinated care.
The MSF currently assigns operators such as voluntary welfare organisations to carry out programmes under the Network.
Mr Heng said the move to have one ministry handling both health and social programmes for seniors will also allow such services to be “planned and delivered holistically”.
He added that the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) will be designated the central implementation agency to coordinate services for seniors and their caregivers.
In a joint media release with the Ministry of Health, MSF said it will still retain oversight of senior group homes and sheltered homes, which are in line with its core role of looking after low-income and vulnerable Singaporeans.
It said the transfer follows an earlier exercise in 2013, where the oversight of social care services for frail seniors, including social daycare, home-based personal care and deliver meals, was transferred to the Health Ministry.
EXPANSION OF PILOT PROGRAMME FOR SENIORS
Mr Heng also said the Government would expand nationwide a pilot programme that brings together various government agencies and community partners to encourage seniors to remain active, link lonely seniors with new friends and care for the frail and vulnerable.
The programme will be progressively expanded to nationwide coverage by 2020, according to the joint media statement.
The Community Networks for Seniors (CNS) was announced during Budget 2016 and as a start, rolled out at to three pilot sites at Tampines, Marine Parade and Chua Chu Kang.
MSF said some 70 Residents’ Committees (RCs) have been activated as part of CNS to hold regular preventive health and active ageing activities. As a result, more than 70,000 seniors have benefited from the programme.
It said work has already started to expand the programme to locations such as East Coast, Ang Mo Kio and Jurong.
He said the Pioneer Generation Office (PGO) will merge with the AIC to support the nationwide expansion of the network, and serve as AIC’s arm in implementing the programme across the island.
The PGO was initially formed in 2014 to reach out to Pioneer Generation Singaporeans to explain government policies such as the Pioneer Generation Package and MediShield Life.
Additionally, it will reach out to all seniors aged 65 years and above.
“To reflect its enhanced role, the PGO will be renamed the Silver Generation Office,” Mr Heng said.
“Our friendly ambassadors will continue to knock on doors wearing their familiar shirts, only they will now be called the Silver Generation or SG Ambassadors.”
TOP UP OF TWO SENIOR-RELATED FUNDS
Mr Heng also spoke about injecting funds to support seniors in ageing confidently within the community. He said the Community Silver Trust (CST) will be provided with a S$300 million top-up. The trust provides dollar-for-dollar matching for donations to eligible voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) providing seniors with long-term care services.
The trust has matched some S$500 million in donations raised by more than 80 VWOs in the last six years.
Mr Heng said the trust will also be expanded to match donations raised for active ageing programmes, in a bid to support more initiatives.
In addition, the government will also provide a S$100 million top-up to the Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund (SMF), which provides subsidies for assistive devices and consumables.
“Another S$150 million will be spent over the next five years for transport to subsidised eldercare and dialysis centres,” Mr Heng said.
“We will review SMF in the coming years, to ensure that subsidies remain targeted.”
Besides improving support for seniors, Mr Heng also touched on the delivery of social services to other groups. Thus, he said the role and capabilities of Social Services Offices (SSOs) will be strengthened in order to better coordinate the efforts of government agencies, VWOs and community partners.