SINGAPORE: Communication is the keyword, when conveying policies to senior Singapore citizens, said co-chair of the Pioneer Generation Taskforce on Communications and Outreach Amy Khor, at an appreciation dinner to celebrate the end of its two-year term.
Since April 2014, the 22-member taskforce had been working to help elderly Singaporeans better understand the healthcare benefits of the Pioneer Generation Package. It involved policy-makers, the private sector, as well as healthcare institutions and voluntary welfare organisations, which are facilities that seniors commonly turn to.
To better reach out to pioneer citizens, the taskforce turned to broadcast media, on top of the traditional print advertisements.
“We went beyond these usual platforms that the Government has been accustomed to using. We did roadshows. We went so far as to work with the getai organisers to reach out to a very specific audience of pioneers and their families”, said Mrs Josephine Teo, who co-chairs the taskforce with Dr Khor.
“Communication is key in ensuring the successful implementation of an initiative. No matter how good the initiative is, I think poor communication will detract from it”, added Dr Khor. But she said that beyond communication is the collaboration with other Government agencies, as well as the community.
One of the taskforce’s accomplishment is the PG Ambassador pilot, where volunteers go door-to-door to raise awareness of the Package. So far, more than 3,000 trained ambassadors have visited about 300,000 pioneers.
Mrs Teo said although home visits are laborious and time-consuming, and requires patience and commitment, it is still a very effective mechanism.
Other takeaways from the taskforce is to “keep it simple, keep it targeted, and keep at it”, said Dr Khor.
“I think we have a habit of downloading a lot of information, and I think the biggest takeaway was that more information isn’t always better. So for example, the letters that went out to the pioneers, it’s quite a big change from what Government letters used to be like. We kept the communications quite simple”, added Mrs Teo.
Both chairpersons agreed that even after the taskforce has called it a day, there will still be efforts to continue gathering feedback on the ground and to refine how better to convey policies. There are hopes that other Government agencies will learn from their experience.
“At the Health Ministry, the Pioneer Generation package experience has actually helped us strengthen our communication efforts and capability, particularly at the frontline, to make sure that frontline staff are able to explain benefits of the PG Package and give the pioneers and families assurance. Another thing we learnt was that, we needed to continually gather feedback from the public, from patients, from the PG Ambassadors, to enhance our communication efforts”, said Dr Khor, who is also Senior Minister of State for Health.
Mrs Teo added that “the most effective gauge is really when the pioneers themselves come up to you quite regularly. I think all of us who are active on the ground have had people come and approach us to say, thank you for the Pioneer Generation Package. It’s so helpful. This is not isolated. If there wasn’t enough awareness on the ground, you won’t get this kind of feedback.”
So far, more than 400,000 pioneers have benefitted from the PG package since its launch in 2014, totalling about S$700 million. About 300,000 have tapped on the subsidies under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS), while around the same number of pioneers have enjoyed discounts at polyclinics and Specialist Outpatient Clinics. More senior citizens are also increasingly assured that healthcare costs would be more affordable from them.