1. Mr. Desmond Lee, the Minister for Social and Family Development, officially launched the Marsiling Community Link (ComLink) programme space today. Marsiling is one of four estates in Singapore with ComLink. The other three locations are Jalan Kukoh, Kembangan-Chai Chee and Boon Lay. ComLink was first introduced in March 2019. It provides targeted community-based programmes and support to families with children who are staying in rental housing.
Working together to better support families with complex needs
2. Low-income and vulnerable families and individuals often face complex and inter-connected challenges. Integrated support from different government and community agencies is important. The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has been working with other government agencies, community and corporate partners to transform and strengthen our social services, service delivery and last-mile support.
3. ComLink is one of MSF’s key initiatives to help families living in rental housing. A core feature is the partnerships between the public, people and private sectors. ComLink emphasises proactive, collaborative and community-driven support. It aims to empower families to improve their circumstances and achieve sustained stability. For some, this could include home ownership.
Shared Space for Social Services and Community Programmes
4. The new ComLink programme space is a one-stop location where families can conveniently access a suite of social services, such as family services and preschool support. Upcoming programmes at the Marsiling site include reading and numeracy programmes for young children, sports activities for students, Community Scouting for youths, and skills upgrading and job matching services. Besides participating, residents can also run their own programmes. Some have expressed interest to run sepak takraw classes for children and youths and cooking lessons.
Co-creation of Programmes with Residents and Partners
5. Residents and the ComLink implementation workgroup (comprising officers from the Social Service Office (SSO) and Marsiling community partners) co-created these programmes. From mid-2019, workgroup members went door-to-door to understand families’ needs, aspirations, and interests. Together with student volunteers from various Institutes of Higher Learning, they have engaged 120 families so far. Based on the issues surfaced, the workgroup then curated a set of programmes to complement the existing ecosystem of support.
6. For instance, when they realised that there was a demand for activities for pre-school children, they brought in community partners such as Bringing Love to Every Single Soul (BLESS) and Mendaki to provide reading and numeracy programmes. They also engaged others such as Presbyterian Community Services to conduct parenting workshops, and the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) to guide families in their preparation for pre-school.
7. “The community plays an important role to support and empower low-income and vulnerable families,” said Minister Desmond Lee. “We are constantly exploring new ways to identify and bridge the gaps in our social services, especially for those facing complex challenges. This requires a whole-of-society effort. ComLink is a platform for the government, people and private sectors to provide comprehensive, convenient and coordinated support for families living in rental flats. We hope to see more partners come forward and do good together.”
8. At each ComLink site, the local implementation workgroups meet regularly to discuss how cases are progressing and how to achieve closer collaboration. This is especially important for families who face complex and multi-faceted issues. They will benefit from coordinated case support provided by government and community agencies working in close partnership.
9. Besides ComLink, the Government has been working hand-in-hand with the community to strengthen our social safety net across different life-stages. For young children in low-income families, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA)’s KidSTART will provide upstream and integrated support in child development to help them achieve a good start in life. For the wider group of students from disadvantaged families, UPLIFT (Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce) spearheaded by the Ministry of Education (MOE), will strengthen school- and community-based support to help them achieve their education potential. Non-ComLink families can also benefit from KidSTART and UPLIFT.
Strengthening Community Links through Collaboration with UPLIFT and KidSTART
10. From January 2020, UPLIFT will pilot upstream and community support in three towns – Woodlands, Kreta Ayer and Boon Lay – for disadvantaged students who need more support to attend school more regularly. UPLIFT will strengthen school-based support and work with the community to provide enhanced learning, motivational and socio-emotional support for students, as well as facilitate parenting support for their families.
11. Schools can identify and refer these students to UPLIFT Town-Level Coordinators operating out of the SSOs at the three sites. The coordinator will connect the student and family to available community programmes such as homework supervision, academic coaching, befriending and mentoring, and monitor the student’s educational progress. The pilot will run from 2020 to 2022, with the aim to reach more than 300 primary and secondary school students living in the three areas. These may include students who live in rental housing. (For more details on the UPLIFT Community Pilot, please refer to the MOE information sheet.)
12. Ms Indranee Rajah, Second Minister for Education and Chairperson of UPLIFT, said, “It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. We want to build an uplifting village, where school, social and community support are seamlessly integrated. There are many organisations and individuals who are keen to help children from disadvantaged families. The key is in linking everybody up, and connecting the ones in need to the right help and support available.”
13. Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Adviser to Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC Grassroots Organisations (Marsiling), said, “The introduction of initiatives such as ComLink, UPLIFT and KidSTART will greatly benefit Marsiling residents. Through our monthly local implementation workgroup meetings and joint engagements with residents, my grassroots team and I have not only been able to iron out the implementation details of ComLink and the other related initiatives, but have also built even closer relationships with our partners.”
14. Besides Marsiling, the ComLink programme space at Jalan Kukoh is also currently in use. The two other programme spaces at Kembangan-Chai Chee and Boon Lay will be ready by the first quarter of 2021.