SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) on Wednesday (Mar 7) outlined a range of ground level initiatives to progressively strengthen social service delivery in the coming years.
To begin with, it wants to make it easier for needy individuals and families alike to apply for social assistance schemes from different agencies.
Said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee: “As far as possible, they should not need to submit the same documents, repeat their circumstances, or fill in multiple application forms asking for similar information. This will help reduce the burden often faced by low-income individuals and households seeking help, who may already be in distress or urgent need.
“For example, if a client living in public rental housing is receiving ComCare assistance from the SSO (Social Service Office), and we observe that he is unable to keep up with rent, the SSO will share its assessment with HDB (Housing and Development Board) to consider a reduction in rent,” he added.
Also, from the second half of 2018, Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students from low-income families receiving ComCare assistance will also be assessed for their eligibility to receive a bursaries from either the Community Development Council, Citizens’ Consultative Committee Bursary or Ministry of Education (MOE), without having to apply separately.
MSF and MOE will work to extend this initiative to students in mainstream schools, polytechnics and autonomous universities.
In another illustration, mothers or single parents who are working or seeking work, and receiving ComCare assistance, will be automatically assessed on their eligibility for additional childcare subsidies and extra financial help when they enrol their child into a childcare centre. This will be rolled out later in 2018, starting with SSOs and childcare centres in a few HDB towns.
“We will continue to explore more ways to reduce the burden on individuals and households in need,” said Mr Lee. “At the same time, we are mindful not to do this indiscriminately, so that we do not inadvertently erode people’s will to be self-reliant, or create for that matter a large cliff effect where multiple lines of assistance come up for review at the same time.”
MSF also aims to equip frontline officers across Government and community agencies with basic knowledge and information beyond their individual organisations - so they can refer individuals to other social assistance schemes that cater to their needs.
Said Mr Lee: “We will start with the SSOs, HDB, and PA offices at our local community clubs, which are common touchpoints for residents in need. Eventually, we will extend this to other touchpoints, including medical social workers and school counsellors.”
For example, from the third quarter of 2018, ComCare clients at MSF’s 24 SSOs islandwide will be able to access services for persons with disabilities, such as those offered by the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC) and SG Enable.
By the end of the year, MSF, MOE and Family Service Centres (FSCs) will complete the roll-out of a referral protocol, so all schools will know when and how to refer needy students and their families to the SSOs or FSCs.
Mr Lee also acknowledged the possibility of complex cases where multiple needs are present and different agencies involved. SSOs will thus assign a case lead who will coordinate Government agencies and Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) to work on a common action plan for the client.
STARTING CHANGE AT GRASSROOTS LEVEL
MSF is also exploring more integrated service delivery models at SSOs, such as the use of video conferencing for ComCare applicants to communicate with officers from other agencies.
Later this year, the Geylang Serai SSO will pilot this with HDB, SG Enable and SNTC.
MSF is looking to co-locate complementary services within the SSOs - like the Silver Generation Office (SGO), formerly known as the Pioneer Generation Office. This is already happening at the Taman Jurong SSO, and will expand to the Geylang Serai SSO from the second half of 2018.
Mr Lee said these initiatives “will make the SSO of the future a single touchpoint for residents with financial and other social needs”.
“Let me illustrate this with a hypothetical example. A family of four living in a public rental flat applies for ComCare assistance at the SSO. They have one child with special needs and another studying in ITE,” he said.
“In addition to the assistance provided by the SSO, the family will be able to access schemes and services from SG Enable for their child with special needs, without having to travel to their offices. If their ComCare assistance is approved, the child studying in ITE will also qualify to receive a bursary, without having to separately apply for one.”
"And if the family needs to have discussions with the HDB branch office about their rental situation ... they can do so via video-conferencing,” Mr Lee continued.
“As social needs evolve, we will continue to work to make sure that our SSOs are equipped to handle the evolving, complex and varied needs of those we assist, to help them get back on their feet again.”
SSOs will also launch a series of local community networking sessions involving VWOs, schools, Government agencies and grassroots organisations, organised over the coming year and slated to be a regular feature.
“Currently, SSOs have good working relationships with different government agencies and community partners,” said Mr Lee. “Going forward, the SSOs will step up efforts to bring together community partners to forge a better picture of local needs, gaps and resources.”
“In doing so, community and Government efforts will complement each other to contribute towards better social service outcomes and a caring nation."