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Singapore Government

History & Milestones

MSF started out as a social welfare department to address malnutrition during the Japanese Occupation. Since then, we have gone through many mergers and portfolio changes. Here are our key milestones.

29 June 1946

The first People’s Restaurant under the Communal Feeding Programme was opened. The next day, Mr T.P.F. McNeice was appointed the first Social Welfare Officer in the new Social Welfare Department, formed to address malnutrition as food prices soared during World War 2. As the situation stablised, the Department shifted its focus to the care and protection of women and children.

22 December 1958 – 30 April 1992

Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) in Singapore were brought together under the Singapore Council of Social Service (SCSS). The Community Chest was set up in 1983 to help VWOs raise funds.

1 July 1960

The People’s Association was established to promote racial harmony and social cohesion under the first Government of the newly formed State of Singapore led by Lee Kuan Yew.

27 November 1963 – 23 September 1965

A new full-fledged ministry dealing with social affairs was established. The Ministry of Social Affairs, led by Minister Othman Wok, also included the Legal Aid Bureau, Registry of Muslim Marriages, Syariah Court, Registry of Marriages, Hindu Advisory Board and Sikh Advisory Board.

24 September 1965 – 15 April 1968

A month after Singapore gained independence, the Ministry of Social Affairs merged with the Ministry of Culture to form the Ministry of Culture and Social Affairs. The Social Welfare Department was absorbed into the Social Affairs Division.

16 April 1968 – 1 January 1985

The Ministry of Culture and Social Affairs was split into two ministries. Still led by Minister Othman Wok, the Ministry of Social Affairs focused in its key portfolios of social welfare, rehabilitation, fire fighting (1963 – 1981) and legal aid (1963 – 1984).

1 July 1968 

To advise the Government in Muslim affairs and look out for Singapore’s Muslim community, the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS) was established as a statutory body when the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA) came into effect.

1 May 1969 

The Hindu Endowments Board came into operation with the commencement of the Hindu Endowments Act.

1 October 1973

The Singapore Sports Council was formed to cultivate a sports culture, achieve sports excellence and create a vibrant sports industry.

2 January 1985 – 31 March 2000

The Ministry of Social Affairs was enlarged by the transfer of several cultural portfolios from the Ministry of Culture when it was reorganised into the Ministry of Community Development (MCD). The new Ministry aimed to promote and nurture a robust, culturally vibrant, cohesive and caring society.

MCD was led by:

  • Minister S. Dhanabalan (2 January 1985 – 1986)
  • Acting Minister Wong Kan Seng (18 February 1986 – 31 December 1986)
  • Acting Minister Dr Seet Ai Mei (1 July 1991 – 6 September 1991)
  • Minister Yeo Cheow Tong (7 September 1991 – 1 January 1994)
  • Acting Minister Abdullah Tarmugi (2 January 1994 – 14 January 1996)
  • Minister Abdullah Tarmugi (15 January 1996 – 31 March 2000)

1 November 1989

The National Youth Council, a division of the People’s Association, was set up as the national co-ordinating body for youth affairs.

1 May 1992 

The Singapore Council of Social Service was restructured into the present National Council of Social Service. The Community Chest continued to function as its fund-raising arm.

1 July 1999 – 24 August 2003

The National Volunteer Centre was established to promote volunteerism in all sectors including social service, arts, sports and the environment.

1 April 2000 – 31 August 2004

Recognising the importance of sports in nation building and community bonding, MCD was reorganised and renamed the Ministry of Community Development and Sports (MCDS) on 1 April 2000. The Ministry took on a bigger role in developing and promoting sports in Singapore and was led by:

  • Minister Abdullah Tarmugi (1 April 2000 – 24 March 2002)
  • Acting Minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim (25 March 2002 – 11 May 2003)
  • Minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim (12 May 2003 – 11 August 2004)
  • Acting Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan (12 August 2004 – 31 August 2004)

25 August 2003

The National Volunteer Centre was renamed the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre to promote volunteerism and philanthropy across all sectors and levels of society.

2 April 2004

The Singapore Sports School was started to provide a flexible academic curriculum and training systems to nurture budding talent into elite junior athletes.

1 September 2004 – 31 October 2012

MCDS was officially renamed the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) to signal the Government’s committment to engage young Singaporeans in national matters. MCYS has been led by:

  • Acting Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan (1 September 2004 – 31 March 2005)
  • Minister of State Yu-Foo Yee Shoon (August 2004 – May 2011)
  • Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan (1 April 2005 – May 2011)
  • Senior Parliamentary Secretary Teo Ser Luck (April 2008 – May 2011)
  • Acting Minister Chan Chun Sing (May 2011 - 31 October 2012)
  • Minister of State Halimah Yacob (May 2011 - 31 October 2012)
  • Senior Parliamentary Secretary Sam Tan Chin Siong (May 2011 - 31 October 2012)
1 November 2012 – present
MCYS was restructured to become the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), bringing a sharper focus to the Government’s work in the development of families, social services and social safety nets.
MSF has been led by:
  • Acting Minister Chan Chun Sing (1 November 2012 - 8 April 2015)
  • Minister of State Mdm Halimah Yacob (1 November 2012 - 13 January 2013)
As part of the restructuring, several roles were moved to two other ministries. Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) took over MCYS' roles of 
  • strengthening community bonds, 
  • promoting volunteerism and philanthropy, 
  • engaging youths and 
  • developing sports.
As a result, the following statutory boards and organisations were moved under the purview of MCCY:
  • Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS)
  • Registry of Muslim Marriages (ROMM)
  • Syariah Court
  • Hindu Endowments Board
  • Hindu Advisory Board
  • Sikh Advisory Board
  • People's Association
  • Singapore Sports Council
  • Singapore Sports School
Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) took over REACH.