SINGAPORE: Needy Singaporeans will find it easier to get help, with a shared database for the social service sector.
The integrated information system will be set up in two to three years, providing a history of the cases that are being handled by various agencies and voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs).
Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing likened the system to the one that is being put in place in the healthcare sector — where electronic medical records of patients are shared across the hospitals and polyclinics.
Speaking at an annual members conference of the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) on Thursday, Mr Chan said such a system will be useful, as it is not always easy for those who need help to navigate and access the current network of social service agencies and programmes.
He said: "The clients who are seeking help are already in need, so you don’t want to make them repeat their stories over and over again.
"You also want to make sure that the help by the different agencies is coordinated so that while they overlap each other to cover the gaps, there won’t be too much of a overlap whereby we provide repeated services for areas of need that are already fully covered."
Mr Chan said this means the first agency must work with the others at the back end.
Mr Chan said it will take two to three years to develop the common database, which will have the case histories of clients.
Issues related to confidentiality and privacy will have to be worked out before the system is rolled out.
Mr Chan added: "These are definitely planning parameters that we definitely have to grapple with when we implement the system. We must also ask the clients whether they are comfortable to share this information across agencies that are helping them. So we will definitely need to respect that.
"In fact, that’s one reason why we will take our time to work through some of these issues as to who has access to the data and who can share the data."
Chairperson of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Seah Kian Peng, said: "I think the information that’s required will only be the key and critical information that’s needed for this purpose.
"So I think the public will be assured that we do not need much information. We only need those that are critical, and the concerns over privacy are valid and will be of value and be taken into account in devising and forming this database."
MCYS will also be looking at different models for funding the infrastructure of voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs), as some are facing challenges in raising funds.
To help VWOs leverage technology to better serve the needy, the MCYS, NCSS and Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore are conducting a study to understand the existing ICT capabilities and constraints in the sector.
This is part of efforts under the Social Service Sector Infocomm Technology Master Plan to raise the ICT capability of some 500 VWOs and help agencies drive productivity and innovation in the next five years.
The study will be completed by the first half of next year.
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