SINGAPORE: Needy parents who receive temporary support through the ComCare scheme will by June no longer have to submit multiple applications and documents when applying for childcare subsidies and financial assistance.
This is as a result of a move by the Government to improve information and data-sharing across agencies, announced Minister for Social and Family Development (MSF) Desmond Lee during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate speech on Wednesday (Mar 6).
Currently, low-income families need to apply for ComCare assistance at Social Service Offices (SSOs), and submit the same set of supporting documents again when they apply for other assistance.
Short-to-Medium Term Assistance provides temporary financial support to individuals or families who are temporarily unable to work, are looking for a job, or have a low income.
“Because agencies and voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) are currently approached separately for specific issues, they end up with a compartmentalised understanding of the family’s challenges, rather than a holistic overview,” Mr Lee said.
He added that MSF will continue to expand these arrangements to more agencies.
The arrangements were made to reduce the administrative load on beneficiaries while ensuring that each agency has a holistic perspective of the family’s circumstances, MSF said.
This was one of several measures he announced to provide more integrated support.
SSO TO PROVIDE FINANCIAL, EMPLOYMENT, HOUSING AND LEGAL HELP
To make it more convenient for families to get help, individuals will be able to access financial, employment and housing services at all 24 SSOs, either through physical co-location of services or video-conferencing with agencies.
The offices at Taman Jurong, Kreta Ayer, Chua Chu Kang, Jalan Besar and Yishun will offer the full suite of services by June 2019.
People who approach these offices will, for example through video-conferencing links with HDB, be able to check on the status of their rental flat application, or virtually link up with career coaches from Workforce Singapore.
Video-conferencing links with the Legal Aid Bureau for advisory services will also be piloted by June this year at three SSOs at Boon Lay, Taman Jurong and Queenstown.
“Clients with complex problems are often asked to submit multiple documents or repeat their circumstances when they seek help. We should not let this be a barrier to them seeking help,” Mr Lee said, explaining the rationale behind housing these services together either physically or virtually.
FRONTLINE OFFICERS TO BE TRAINED TO CONNECT PEOPLE TO RELEVANT HELP
Mr Lee also said that frontline officers will be trained to help people get the support they need, regardless of the agency they approach first.
For example, if a family seeks help from HDB because of rental arrears, it could be because a breadwinner has lost his job, and the family is in financial difficulty.
In this case, they ought to be referred to Workforce Singapore or NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute to help the breadwinner with job matching, and to the SSO for financial assistance.
By the end of 2019, at least 2,500 officers from organisations such as the People’s Association, HDB, and the Singapore Police Force will be equipped to identify the needs of people who approach them more comprehensively and connect them to relevant help.
MSF will expand this over time to include more ground agencies such as Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs), Mr Lee said.
“We want to ensure that these families get the necessary information, and referrals to the relevant agencies’ services, regardless of which agency they first approach,” he added.
CASE COORDINATION GUIDELINES FOR AGENCIES AND CASE WORKERS
Many agencies and VWOs may be involved in a family’s case to ensure that the family can get all the help possible, Mr Lee said. This however requires coordinated work.
To this end, MSF has developed a set of case coordination guidelines. Called the Guidelines for Case Master Action Planning (Case MAP), these guidelines are expected to help agencies in supporting families with complex circumstances.
The guidelines will set out good practices and protocols to help agencies achieve a common understanding of the entire family’s circumstances and needs, and align their interventions to bring about better and sustained outcomes for the family.
“If they identify barriers, gaps, road blocks or inconsistencies in policies, criteria or operational implementation, these will be surfaced to the relevant ministries through the SSOs, to be looked into, and resolved,” Mr Lee said.
Agencies will discuss and coordinate around the needs of each family, with one agency maintaining overall oversight for each complex case. About 200 agencies and 400 officers across seven towns are being trained in these guidelines, which MSF has started rolling out this month, Mr Lee said.
"Beyond systems and data sharing, there needs to be careful case coordination so that no Singaporean falls through the cracks," he said.