SINGAPORE: Social service will be made more accessible to those who need them.
Over the next two to three years, the Social and Family Development Ministry (MSF) will set up about 20 Social Service Offices within HDB towns islandwide.
Acting Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing announced this in Parliament on Thursday while delivering the budget estimates for this ministry.
The first of such offices will be rolled out starting the third quarter of this year.
By end of this year, four new Social Service Offices are expected to be set up at Kreta Ayer, Jalan Besar, Jurong West and Bukit Panjang/Choa Chu Kang.
The locations were prioritised based on the area’s demographic profile and needs.
The Social Service Offices will build on the existing network of help touch points and enable the ministry to meet future needs.
The offices will administer ComCare, a scheme that provides social assistance for low—income individuals and families.
By doing so, this will increase the number of ComCare touch points beyond the current five Community Development Councils (CDCs).
Needy residents will be able to go to the Social Service Office near their homes to seek help once it has been established in their HDB town. Residents can still access ComCare assistance at the CDCs or call ComCare Call at 1800—222 0000.
Mr Chan said: "People do not need to travel long distances to get help. The elderly and the disabled do not need to spend S$20 on a taxi fare just to collect a cheque. But the Social service office is not just about giving the financial assistance. We also want the social offices to be able to play a role to integrate the social service delivery in the respective towns."
Residents can also expect to benefit from services which are better planned to meet their specific needs as the offices will be involved in the planning of social services in their neighbourhoods.
This will be done in partnership with other stakeholders such as the CDCs, Family Service Centres (FSCs), Grassroots and other community organisations.
The Social Assistance Units at the five existing CDCs will also be converted to Social Service Offices by end of this year.
Mr Chan also announced his ministry is prepared to extend assistance to ComCare recipients beyond one year.
Currently, the scheme typically provides temporary assistance to the needy for a few months or up to a year but Mr Chan said the ministry recognises there are those who need more help for a longer period of time.
They are typically those with medical conditions and complex family issues.
Mr Chan said: "That is the easy part, to allow that flexibility in policy and in fact, we already have that flexibility in policy. What we need most are people on the ground, social assistance officers on the ground who can, who are willing and prepare to make that judgement to extend the assistance to those who needs it for a longer period."
Mr Chan said the ministry is also greatly concerned for another group of people — those who may need more than short term help but do not require permanent help either.
The ministry is considering a specific scheme to be tailored for this group.
Mr Chan explained: "They may need people to help them for a period of five to 10 years because their problems are complex. Their problems are not just about financial issues. Some of them might have parents who are incarcerated. Some of them might have children with learning disability and long term health issues.
Mr Chan said his ministry is looking at piloting a scheme to hand hold this group until they can take care of themselves.
"It is not easy. It requires very intense casework but we want to give it our best shot because these issues go beyond pure monetary help. If it is just money, it would have been relatively easy. We would find the money and help them but what these people need most goes beyond money, they need mentors to handhold them to walk the journey together."
The ministry intends to recruit mentors or volunteers to help with this pilot project.
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