Channel NewsAsia
Updated: 12/29/2013 17:47 | By Channel NewsAsia

Building a more inclusive society by strengthening social safety nets

Building a more inclusive society by strengthening social safety nets

Building a more inclusive society by strengthening social safety nets

SINGAPORE: Building a more caring and inclusive society, as well as putting in place stronger social safety nets, were part of a significant shift that put the needs of the less fortunate and the elderly front and centre in 2013.

Channel NewsAsia sums up developments this year, and finds out what to expect in 2014.

Singapore reached a turning point in 2013.

In his National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong underlined the commitment of the government and the community to do more on social support.

And, they did.

The focus was on building a more inclusive society by strengthening social safety nets.

Some 20 Social Service Offices within HDB towns island-wide will be set up over the next two to three years.

This is to bring social services closer to those who need them most.

Seniors too, now have over 100 access points at restructured hospitals, community hospitals and seniors activity centres to tap on the enhanced Seniors' Mobility and Enabling Fund.

This is to help them remain mobile and live independently.

There are good news too for persons with disabilities.

SG Enable, which was set up in July, provides them with the necessary skills and training to join the workforce.

Mr Seah Kian Peng, Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family Development, said: "There has been an increased level of government support for the elderly, for the needy, for the low-income group, for the disabled, in terms of widening the qualifying criteria and also increase in the subsidy levels itself. I think these are all very heartening, very positive. It shows clearly that the PM wants to do more, to address the concerns of Singaporeans."

The elderly can expect more help - with upcoming changes expected with MediShield Life.

Mr Seah added: "They must be quite worried and understandably so, and for whatever the reason is that they are not covered. I think it is important now that eventually they will be covered.

"We can be assured that the concerns of the elderly need to be addressed, for now and for the future. The elderly will always be on the radar screen of our government."

One challenge, however, will be to ensure seamless access for all elderly needs.

Mr Chua Wei Bin, centre head of Cheng San Family Service Centre, said: "How can we integrate healthcare and social care cohesively for the elderly? Very often, funding bodies fund either healthcare or social care, they don't fund it together."

Looking forward, the government has signalled its continued commitment to doing more, but without losing focus on whether the relevant programmes actually work.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: "The government will do more, to give Singaporeans a peace of mind and help you all cope with new challenges, whether it is growing competition from new economies, whether it is widening income distributions, whether it is greater uncertainty in a globalised world. But the ultimate test of our success is not how much the government does or how much we spend, but the outcomes of these programmes."

And this is a challenge that voluntary welfare organisations also recognise.

Mr Chua added: "The key change now is not in the area of the government that needs to happen. I think now is the people on the ground, people like us having to respond with the resources that are given to us, what are they doing with them. We need to up our competencies, we need to think how we can be more effective, and work with more agencies to come together to solve the problem, we need to show that whatever resources that were given is worth the money. There has to be a mindset shift."

In 2014, we can expect greater focus in ensuring the effectiveness and coherence between programmes in the social services.  - CNA/de

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