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Singapore Government

Committee of Supply 2013 Debates Opening Speech

Committee of Supply 2013 Debates Opening Speech

Introduction

Madam Chair, let me first thank all Members who have spoken up and shared their ideas and suggestions for a better Singapore, a more caring, and more inclusive, Singapore.

When we talk about a better Singapore, I think we all understand and accept that we are not just talking about economics. We also want a better Singapore in terms of social cohesion. Economics and social cohesion are not mutually exclusive, but mutually reinforcing.

We are a young nation - barely 50 years old. We have been fortunate to have strong economic growth. It has bought us time to build our social cohesion and our sense of national identity. We hope that this will carry us through the coming years where our economic growth may be slower and our resources may be less plentiful.

But regardless of how fast or slow we grow, we hope that all Singaporeans will join our hands and join our hearts together, to care for those who are less fortunate amongst us.

Our ability to share is not a function of economic growth, nor GDP. Much has been spoken about the happiness index in the past year. I hope we do not quantify more things, to try to make ourselves happy. I also hope that we don’t try to quantify the intangibles that bring meaning to life. I hope that happiness can be defined not just by what we have, but by what we can share.

MSF Beliefs

Last year, during the Committee of Supply, I shared with members of this House, the three fundamental beliefs of MSF - Hope, Heart and Home. This has not changed.

Hope is about our ability to give a helping hand to those who are less fortunate amongst us. Sometimes it is through no fault of theirs because life has thrown them a tough lot. We have to see how we can take care of them.

Hope is about why this Government will continue to invest much more in the development of our children. Because as we have all said, we may be poor in this generation, but we must do our best to give hope to the next, so that our children and their future generations will have the best chance to move forward in life. And identify themselves with this land where we call our home.

Heart is about caring for the needy, the vulnerable, and the disadvantaged. There will always be some amongst us who will be needy, disadvantaged, or vulnerable. I urge those of us who are more successful, to reach out to these people. That, perhaps, is the key to our happiness as individuals, as community, and as a country.

Our home, our family is the bedrock of our society’s success. Our family is the source of our hope and our source of comfort when we are down. Our family provides an anchor and purpose for our lives.

I hope that all of us in this House and beyond, share MSF’s beliefs in Hope, Heart and Home.

MSF Priorities to Enhance Social Services & the Social Safety Net

Let me talk about MSF’s three priorities for 2013 to enhance social services and the social safety net. They revolve around the implementation of our policies.

First, we endeavour to provide more flexible and tailored assistance. This means that for those who need more, we should agree as a society that we will provide them with more. I hope members of this House and fellow Singaporeans will agree with me that the best way to help those in need with our finite pool of resources, is to provide more for those who need more, rather than a universal scheme to help everyone equally.

I hope members of this House and fellow Singaporeans will also agree with us and not feel aggrieved because someone else has gotten more help than what we may have gotten. This speaks about the soul of our nation. This speaks about how inclusive we want to be.

The second priority is to provide more accessible and integrated care to better serve our people who are in need. We want to customise solutions for them, according to their needs and locality.

And the third priority is to build up a stronger social service sector. There are four areas: how we organise ourselves, how we develop our people, how we increase productivity, and how we enlarge the circle of support which includes the community, private companies, and the public sector.

Flexible and Tailored Approach

Let me touch on the first priority, which has to do with the flexible and tailored approach. I start with ComCare. We all know that ComCare provides temporary assistance to many in need and who have fallen on hard times. Our typical ComCare scheme can range from a couple of months to a year.

But we know that there will be some people with medical and complex family issues, and they may need help for more than a year. We are prepared to extend assistance to ComCare recipients beyond one year. That is the easy part, which is to allow the flexibility in policy.

And in fact today, we already have that flexibility in policy. What we need most, are the people on the ground, Social Assistance officers (SA officers) on the ground who can, and who are willing, and who are prepared to make the judgement, to extend the assistance to those who need it for longer periods. We need SA officers, community leaders, and fellow Members of Parliament to help us do this. A policy is no use unless it can be executed well on the ground.

And I call upon my fellow Members of Parliament, SA officers, and Grassroota Leaders to help us make that judgement. We have the framework in place, and let us make use of that.

Enhanced Public Assistance (PA) Scheme

Two weeks ago, I announced the change in the PA scheme for our needy and vulnerable. We now have a scheme that is more flexible, that is not a one-size-fits-all scheme. We have a basic tier that will cover food, and transport. There are also medical and housing benefits.

But we will also have an additional tier. This will cover medical essentials like health supplements and adult diapers which some will need. On top of that, we will have a discretionary tier for one-off essentials like commodes.

Ms Lily Neo asked about how we will implement this system. I would like to share with Ms Lily Neo that the people on the Public Assistance Scheme do not just get the Public Assistance. Our SA officers and the Grassroots volunteers regularly meet with them to review their cases.

This goes beyond just financial assistance. We will work with other partners such as VWOs and hospitals to deliver the assistance to PA recipients. We fully understand that many of our elderly do not know where to go and look for help. And we should not need them to, because we have SA officers, Grassroots volunteers, and Grassroots Leaders to reach out, and they know who needs a bit more help.

When I announced the change in the PA scheme two weeks ago, I visited Mr Anthony Chou. When news broke that Mr Anthony Chou did not have a bed, he received many offers for beds and furnishings for his house. We are in the process of getting this help to Mr Anthony Chou, and we will channel any extra to the other PA recipients. Mr Anthony Chou has a simple desire - he likes to eat fish. And we have received many offers to try to help. This speaks about the spirit of fellow Singaporeans, whom I believe are generous in sprit and kind at heart. And with that, I am confident that beyond the scheme, we can deliver help to those who need it most.

We will continue to adopt the same flexible approach as we review our other schemes, as Ms Lily Neo has suggested.

Better Supporting Families with Complex Needs

Now, we know that ComCare provides short-term help, and Public Assistance provides long-term help. Going forward, we are concerned about another group of people. These are the people that require help beyond 1 to 2 years, but may not need permanent help. They may require help for five to ten years because their problems are complex. Their problems are not just financial. Some of them might have parents who are incarcerated, some of them might have children with learning disabilities, some of them might have long term health issues, and others might have complex family issues. We are reviewing the schemes to see how best we can pilot a scheme to handhold these people out of the circumstances they are in.

It is not easy, and it will require very intense casework. But we are going to give it our best shot. Because these issues, go beyond pure monetary help. If the issue is just money, it would be relatively easy. We could find the money and help them. But what these people need most goes beyond money. They need mentors. They need people to handhold them, to walk the journey together with them. And along the way, many of them will stumble and they will pick themselves up again. But we hope the mentors will continue to stick around to continue to walk the journey with them. So the most important thing for this group, is for us as a community, as a nation, to muster a group of volunteers and mentors, to come forward to walk this journey with them, so that their children will have a better future in times to come.

Yesterday, Mr. Laurence Lien spoke about how we want to help the poor. I want to reassure Mr Laurence Lien and Members of this House that all Social Workers and other social service professionals try their very best to deliver a holistic package of help to those in need.

Many of them go beyond their call of duty - looking beyond financial issues to the childcare issues, medical issues, employment issues, and so forth. And I want to give credit to this group of social service professionals who are constantly on the go, reaching out to people, and seeking out those who need help. I think we will do them a disservice if we suggest that they have somehow not tried to provide holistic help . Or that they have somehow taken away the dignity of the people they are helping. That cannot be further away from the truth.

Our job is to provide dignity and hope to the families in need. Our job is to build on their strengths, so that they can stand tall again. And maybe even lend a helping hand to the next generation. So I would like to thank all my social service professionals who have done so much quietly behind the scenes to reach out to them.

Having said that, certainly we can do more. And if there are suggestions which Mr. Laurence Lien would like us to do better, we will certainly work with him to do even better.

Accessible and Integrated Social Services

Now I come to the second priority for MSF this year. Like what Mr Alex Yam, Mr Seah Kian Peng, Mr Desmond Lee and Ms Low Yen Ling have spoken, delivery is the key. The delivery is as important as the policy.

We want to be closer to our clients, we want to meet local needs, and we want to provide our clients with coordinated and integrated care. We have been heading in that direction, but we are not there yet.

Social Service Offices

We will continue to move in that direction. This year, we will roll out 20 Social Service Offices from the third quarter. It will take us 2 to 3 years to lay the groundwork across the entire country. Many years back when we were called “福利部” as many people would remember, the people seeking help would have to walk up a hill at Thomson to seek help. That is where our current MSF building is located.

Over time, we have decentralised the assistance officers to the 5 Community Development Councils (CDCs). This has enabled us to reach out to those in need. Building on that foundation, we are going to push out our offices even more. And this is why we are rolling out the 20 offices across the entire nation.

We will build one in each town. And if we need to build more for the new towns, we will build more. People do not need to travel long distances to get help. The elderly and persons with disabilities will not need to spend $20 on taxi fare just to go and collect a cheque.

But the Social Service Office is not just about giving out financial assistance. We also want the Social Service Offices to be able to play a role to integrate the social service delivery in the respective towns. For example, in Toa Payoh town, there are more than 20 facilities run by Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) providing different services. We need the 20 different facilities to come together to coordinate their services, share their expertise and knowledge, and to also share some of the backend support to better deliver services to those living in Toa Payoh.

This is exactly what we will do, and it was also suggested by Mr Desmond Lee yesterday. The Social Service Officers will play a local coordinating role. We want to simplify the working relationships at the ground level, and we would like to reassure Mr Faisal Manap that this is to simplify the work rather than add to bureaucracy. We will never do that, because if we do, it would be an injustice to the people we serve.

So for this year, besides converting the Social Assistance units at the five CDCs into Social Service Offices, we will build four new ones. The first two will be at Kreta Ayer and Jalan Besar. The next one will be at Jurong West, and another one will serve both Bukit Panjang and Choa Chu Kang.

Members may ask how these locations were decided. These locations were decided based on the caseloads, the demographic profile of the population, and the needs of the community. But rest assured that we will work with the Grassroots Advisors and the local community leaders to roll out these Offices as fast as we can. We seek Members’ assistance - help us identify the suitable locations to set up these Offices, so that we can deliver better and more integrated services to our clients as soon as we can.

Repositioning the Centre for Enabled Living

Yesterday, the Health Ministry has announced that the AIC will take care of all eldercare issues. MSF will continue to oversee the network of Senior Activity Centres to provide social support for our elderly. We will also position the current Centre for Enabled Living into a focal point for disability services, which I will elaborate more on later.

Strengthening the Social Service Sector

Now I come to the third priority of how we intend to build a stronger social service sector.

Structure and Organisation

Today we have a varied landscape across the entire Voluntary Welfare Organisation (VWO) sector. There are some small ones providing specialised and niche services. They are very personal in their approach - they know their clients well and serve niche needs.

But they have their own challenges. Because they are small, it is hard for them to raise funds, it is hard for them to attract people to come and join them. Many social service professionals have feedback to us that beyond helping the poor, they would also like to see some professional development, personal development and opportunities to upgrade themselves. We can understand and appreciate this.

On the other hand, we have some VWOs that are very big. They benefit from the economies of scale when it comes to acquisitions and providing career development opportunities. But their challenge is to maintain the same level of personalised services to their clients. So we need to find a way to marry the best of both worlds.

We want the personalised services at the front end and economies of scale at the back end. We want the back end integration to develop the social service professionals in the sector - to give them a sense of fulfilment and a sense of career development and professional development.

So what we are going to do is develop some bigger VWOs that can provide the anchor in providing services to the local community. At the same time, we can network them in a hub-and-spoke model with some of the smaller VWOs providing niche services in the same locality. That way, they can share critical resources at the back end, from IT systems to knowledge of the clients, to administration, and even HR.

We have made some progress in this area. For example, many VWOs share critical therapy services, like the physiotherapist or occupational therapist. These are scarce resources, and not every VWO can employ a physiotherapist or occupational therapist by themselves. And they probably may not need the service for the whole day as well. If we can aggregate the demand, we can actually provide better services to the clients. At the same time, we can also make sure that our social service professionals have a more meaningful and challenging career.

Human Resource Development

In terms of Human Resource, we will continue to step up the pace of developing our social service professionals. I’m happy to say that with our outreach efforts, we have seen about 300 applications per year in the last two years for the Professional Conversion Programme. These are the people who join the sector after a mid-career switch. We are encouraged by this – the 300 applicants will allow us to have a wider pool of people to reach out to those in need. It will also allow us to have a new source of energy to look at the blind spots in the sector.

We will continue to make sure that we develop career opportunities for the social service professionals to do justice to their work. We are rethinking some of the employment schemes that we want to roll out in the next year. For example, how we can provide better terms of employment to the social service professionals centrally, yet allow them to be assigned to the different VWOs. That could allow us to have cross-fertilisation of ideas across different VWOs as well.

We will also continue to review and benchmark the pay in this sector so that we keep pace with the competitive economy that we are in.

Training

When it comes to training, we will focus this year on the training of the Social Assistance officers who will be deployed to the 20 Social Service Offices island-wide. They will very often be the first point of contact, and must know where to refer the various complex cases to. They must know and establish the contacts with other agencies beyond those under MSF.

If we want to deliver holistic help to the people in need, then we will have to take into account their housing, financial, education, health, and socio-emotional needs. And this requires us to come together and work across different agencies.

Increasing Productivity

We will also do our part to increase our productivity. It is not easy. All the work that MSF does is very personalised – we have to care for each elderly, each disabled child. One at a time. But we will try to see where we can improve productivity.

We have identified IT as one critical area which we must invest in. I talked about this last year and we are well into the work to develop an IT system – an integrated IT system – for the social service sector. This will cut down on the admin load for our social workers and social service professionals. This will allow us to focus their time on the front-end work to touch the lives of the people they are helping.

At the same time, this will help us to avoid the situation where a person moves from Bedok to Jurong, and has to repeat the whole case again. This is akin to the medical records system that we have. But it will take us some time to build that system. We will have to put in place the necessary security and confidentiality safeguards to make sure that we do not compromise sensitive information on the individual and his family.

There are other sources of productivity gain that we are constantly on the lookout for. One small example is the way we pack medicine in the Homes. Today, if you visit many of our elderly homes, you will know that we have to almost employ one person full time just to pack medicine three times a day - the correct pills and the correct dosage for the correct elderly. It is very tedious and prone to mistakes.

But we have seen good ideas from MOH, where they have automated the whole process through quite an expensive machine. We might not be able to afford that for every VWO, but we certainly can try to work with MOH to leverage on that machine to do some of this packing. That will free up more manpower for us to do the frontline work.

So if Members have any other ideas, please let us know and we will try our very best.

Widening and Strengthening the Circle of Support

Last but not least, when it comes to building a strong social service sector, we need to widen and strengthen the circle of support. Who is our circle of support? They are the volunteers, the corporate partners, the private individuals who can come in and join us in our endeavours.

We admit we must do better in terms of volunteer management. Many of our VWOs are very small - they do not necessarily have the capacity to manage their volunteers well. It becomes a vicious cycle. If we manage the volunteers well, word of mouth will spread and more volunteers will come. If we don’t manage the volunteers well, people become cynical and we narrow our circle of support. So we will endeavour to do better.

Social Enterprises

When it comes to Social Enterprises (SE), I would like to thank Ms Penny Low for championing this effort all these years. Last year, we launched the inaugural President’s Social Enterprise Award. We had a good response, and we hope to do even better this year. We also have the ComCare Enterprise Fund (CEF) that supported more than 90 projects since 2003.

And we want to continue improving the collaboration amongst the different SEs. We can do it over web portal facilities, or we can do it through other means. But we understand that the SE landscape is a diverse one. We know that they have different missions, different outlooks, and different needs. But we will be happy to share ideas and listen to Ms Penny Low’s ideas on how we can do even better.

Indeed, this is something we want to encourage going forward. That people do not just do business for the sake of money, but people can also do business – viable business – with a sense of social mission. And that, perhaps, will add to the fabric of our nation to make us a more inclusive and caring nation.

Strengthening Relationships with Corporate Partners

When it comes to Corporates, I would like to encourage corporate partners to step forward to work with the many VWOs by focusing and leveraging on their respective strengths. Many Corporates today do a lot of good work with many VWOs and charities.

But I would like to appeal to the corporate partners to leverage even more on their respective strengths. For example, the accountants can come together to provide pro bono accountancy services to the many VWOs who need them. The lawyers can come forward and provide legal advice and legal support to all these VWOs, especially the smaller ones. Even the media professionals can come forward to help by pitching in to spread the word, and make known to the rest of the community the good work that is being done by all these VWOs. We need many, many more corporate partners in these specialised niche areas. Then we can leverage and harness the energy of the entire nation for us to do better.

Each and every one of us has our respective strengths. And I think each and every one of us can use that strength meaningfully to develop a stronger social service sector. So I look forward to working closely with our many corporate partners to serve our local community.

Update on Enabling Masterplan 2012

Ms Denise Phua, Mr Seah Kian Peng and Ms Low Yen Ling asked for an update on the Enabling Masterplan.

Let me first recap our vision of the Enabling Masterplan 2012 that was developed last year. Our vision is for Singapore to be an inclusive society where persons with disabilities are fully integrated, empowered to reach their potential, and become contributing members of our society. We adopt a life-course approach from early pre-school years, education, and employment, into the adult and ageing years.

The Enabling Masterplan lays the foundation for progressive realisation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We are happy that we signed the Convention last year. It is being deposited and will be ratified very soon this year.

We will reposition the Centre for Enabled Living to implement many of the Enabling Masterplan initiatives, including enhancing the information and referral services, expanding the early childhood intervention programmes, enhancing employability and employment options and improving the transition management across life stages. The last one is most important.

Ms Denise Phua asked about the implementation system. We have set up an Enabling Masterplan Implementation Committee. And for the moment, I will personally chair the implementation committee. So we are on track.

Last year, we expended close to $180 million to support persons with disabilities. This includes the Development Support Programme (DSP) for children with mild developmental delays. 300 of them have benefited from the pilot, and we will expand the programme. The Ministry of Education and the National Council of Social Service have also continued to raise their funding for the Special Education (SPED) schools.

When it comes to employment, 3,200 persons with disabilities have benefited from the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme, and 3,000 employers have benefited from the Special Employment Credit (SEC) scheme respectively. I think we can go further. And I will encourage employers and the community to help us.

When it comes to transport and accessibility, we know that the fleet of London cabs would have expired last year. We gave them a one year extension. Last week, you may have read in the newspapers that we have brought in a new fleet of 15 taxis that are able to take the high-back wheelchairs and the motorised wheelchairs. Not only that, in the second half of this year, we will bring in another 15. This will bring the entire fleet up to 30 taxis - three times the original ten that we had in the past with the London cabs. We will spend about $3.1m and work with SMRT to bring in these new taxis.

On top of bringing in new taxis to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities, in the second half of this year, we will also invite commercial and VWO operators to pilot a dedicated fleet for persons with disabilities. So indeed, we want to do more and better.

Now I come to adults with disabilities, including those with Down Syndrome that Mr Png Eng Huat spoke about yesterday. This is a serious challenge for us. In the past, many of the persons with disabilities or those with special needs passed on before their primary caregiver. Today, with better medical care and better support, many of them are outliving their primary caregivers. We need to find solutions to take care of them, after the passing of their primary caregivers.

Many of the primary caregivers are also worried how to provide for them financially once they pass on. Many have come to see me at my Meet-the-People Sessions to see what they can do. They may not be in need today, but they are very worried about what will happen to their adult disabled child after they pass on. Or if something untoward were to happen to them.

We know that the Central Provident Fund (CPF) runs the Special Needs Savings Scheme (SNSS). Many people have benefitted, but I think more can come on. We also have the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC), and we need to go out and let more people know about it. So that parents can set aside some money to help take care of their children after they pass on.

And MOH had recently extended the Medishield to congenital and neonatal conditions.

So these are small steps that we have taken. And I think, we want to do more for these people.

We will also provide a wider range of care options for adults with disabilities. We currently have 830 places in Adult Disability Homes. By 2030, we will increase this by four times, to 3200 places. As our population ages, the number of adult disabled persons seeking care options will not grow linearly. They will grow almost exponentially, because the amount of care in the final years is especially tough.

We will increase the existing 950 places at Day Activity Centres (DAC) by about 50% to 1450 places by 2020. We will also pilot Drop-in Disability programmes at four sites this year. These are programmes for those with milder care needs to allow them to be socially engaged in the community. At the same time, their families may also get some respite to go and work, or to take a break.

We will see how to do this best in the community so that people do not have to travel long distances, yet have accessible services within the community. All these will be overseen by the Enabling Masterplan Implementation Committee, which will continue the work that we have done in the private, public, and people sectors.

Supporting the Vulnerable Elderly

Ms Ellen Lee asked about support for the vulnerable elderly. We share her concern. It is a serious challenge, as the number of elderly will grow very quickly. The issues are complex. They go beyond money and are about social, medical, emotional support and so forth.

Lasting Power of Attorney

We have the Mental Capacity Act and the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). The take-up has mirrored that of other countries in the initial years. We have not reached the take-off stage whereby we see a rapid rise in LPA applications.

In our conversations with potential LPA applicants, they told us that it is not easy for them to access the LPA because some of them don’t understand it. Some of them are inhibited by culture, while some of them do not know they can assign decision-making powers via the LPA in the event of mental incapacity. So these are all the challenges that we need to overcome before we reach the take-off stage like some other countries where there is a rapid increase in the number of people signing up for the LPA.

We do encourage people to come and sign up for this because by the time we think that we need it, it would probably be too late. By then, we may not be in the position to make those decisions for ourselves. So we agree with Ms Ellen Lee that we need to do more. We need Members’ help to do the outreach and to explain to elderly residents – or for that matter, not even the elderly – all residents, to your residents, even when they are young, to sign the LPA so that they can have peace of mind before anything untoward happens to them.

We also need lawyers to help, because, as what Ms Ellen Lee said, sometimes the lawyers charge fees. But I have also seen many lawyers who do this pro bono. So we would like to thank the lawyers who have come forward to patiently explain – not just in English, but in Mandarin, Hokkien, Teochew – to the elderly what the LPA is all about; and who have helped the elderly overcome some of the mental hurdles that hinder them from applying for an LPA.

Having said that, I have asked my staff to see how we can continue to simplify processes to help individuals make the decision while respecting the sanctity of the law. This is not easy. Today, there may be many pages to fill up for an LPA, because legal requirements require us to do that. But we will see how we can simplify the process and yet preserve the sanctity of the legal document.

Increasing Care Options for the Vulnerable Elderly

Ms Lily Neo and Ms Low Yen Ling also talked about support for the vulnerable elderly. I’d like to share with Ms Lily Neo that we have close to 120 Senior Activity Centres in the HDB rental and studio apartments that engage the elderly in meaningful activities. We will be prepared to expand this, if need be. As long as there is a need, we will try our best to work with a VWO to provide that service to the community.

Some of our elderly are also at risk of social isolation or depression. We will equip 30 of these Senior Activity Centres with social work capabilities to provide targeted case management, coordination and monitoring services.

We will also look at expanding our Senior Group Homes with assisted living options for seniors who can benefit from mutual support. I visited one such home a couple of weeks ago. These Homes provide quite good living options for the elderly and we do not have to uproot them from the community that they are living in and place them in an institutional home. If they can mutually support each other within the same community, we can let them live in the Senior Group Homes so that they can help take care of each other. And I think many of the elderly have shared that, when they help to take care of each other, they actually feel a sense of purpose, a sense of mission; and this actually helps them in their daily life. This is what we want to encourage.

We will increase the number of Senior Group Homes from the existing two pilots to 60, with a total capacity of 700 elderly by 2016. And if there is demand and support for this, we will continue to do more.

This is where I again appeal to Members of Parliament to help us because we need to identify the sites, and we need the community to accept that these Senior Group Homes will be located within the community. We need to encourage those more able within the community to come forward and play a part so that we can work together to take care of the elderly amongst us.

Aftercare for Youths at Risk

Finally, Mr Alex Yam asked about youths at risk. Yes, we agree with you – every Singaporean counts. We must do our utmost to make sure that every Singaporean youth – especially those at risk and those who are in vulnerable circumstances – get taken care of.

We will continue to strengthen our aftercare services, as it is not just about having intervention programmes at the Boys’ Home or the Girls’ Home, but it is also about putting in place programmes for them after they leave the Home to make sure that they continue on the journey to recovery and rehabilitation.

We will strengthen our job placement and our search for youth mentors. The youth mentors are critical. They are the ones who come forward, befriend the person, handhold the person and walk with him through the tough journey. This is where we are most in need of volunteers.

We have set up a V-Hub at *SCAPE since Nov last year, so that youths previously on probation can have ready access to employment, training and educational support. At the same time, the V-Hub at *SCAPE is also our channel to reach out to other youths to come forward to serve, to befriend, and to partner some of the youths at risk, so that they can walk this journey together.

We will also pilot the three-year Youth Guidance and Support Service Programme to make sure that we have the continuum of services that Mr Alex Yam talked about.

Beyond programmes, beyond all these structures and organisations, what we need most for the youth at risk are two things. First, as I have said, we need mentors – mentors who can empathise with the youth, mentors who can share the kind of feelings and frustrations that these youth go through, handhold them, and guide them through.

The second important thing that we need is for the community to give these youths a second chance. We have to accept them as equal members of our society, so that when they go and look for a job, when they try to start life afresh, we will not look at them with strange eyes and not accept them. We need to do what we can as a community to help these youths walk on the correct path. I hope to have your support in all these initiatives.

Conclusion

At this juncture, may I invite Mr Heng Chee How to share the active ageing initiatives with the House, before I come back on to share with members of the House the initiatives on family development.

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