1 Vulnerable individuals and families often face complex and inter-locking challenges that require the support of multiple government agencies and community organisations to help them to improve their circumstances. MSF is growing cross-sectoral partnerships – through Community Link (ComLink) and SG Cares Community Network sessions, and through the use of technology and data – that bring together the public, people and private sectors to deliver more Comprehensive, Convenient and Coordinated support for low-income and vulnerable communities.
Supporting families in rental housing through Community Link
2 The Community Link (ComLink) pilot project announced at COS 2019 provides proactive and integrated support to an estimated 1,000 families living in rental flats to help them achieve sustained stability and social mobility. This includes supporting families with the potential towards home ownership. Since January 2020, ComLink programmes started running at dedicated programme spaces or shared community spaces in four estates – Jalan Kukoh, Marsiling, Kembangan-Chai Chee and Boon Lay. The dedicated programme spaces at Jalan Kukoh and Marsiling are now available for use by ComLink agencies and partners as well as residents, while the other sites will be ready by early 2021. These spaces are located at or near rental housing areas, so that residents can conveniently access social services and community programmes tailored to the needs of each local community.
Platform for Closer Case Support and Programme Coordination
3 ComLink offers proactive case support and coordination, geared towards helping these families regain stability and self-reliance, and achieve social mobility in the longer run. This is done through regular case discussions within the local workgroups, to track families’ progress and link them up to the right agencies for the necessary case support.
4 ComLink workgroups also serve as a common platform for the coordination of other national programmes and initiatives, such as UPLIFT (Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce), spearheaded by the Ministry of Education (MOE), and the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA)’s KidSTART. Since January 2020, an UPLIFT Town-Level Coordinator (TLC) has joined the Social Service Offices (SSOs) at Woodlands, Kreta Ayer and Boon Lay, and works with schools to support disadvantaged students who have emerging attendance issues. These coordinators connect the students and their families to suitable community support and programmes, by tapping on the resources of the SSOs and ComLink workgroups, and supplementing that with other volunteer resources.
Joint Creation of Programmes with Residents and Partners
5 Since January 2019, the four local implementation workgroups in each of these estates (comprising officers from the respective SSOs and community partners) have proactively engaged more than 650 families through door-to-door surveys and focus group discussions. Besides understanding each community’s strengths and needs better, the workgroups also uncovered some unique attributes of each community. This enabled the workgroups to purposefully bring together over 40 government agencies, social service agencies (SSAs), corporates and grassroots organisations, as well as students, volunteers and residents to co-create and co-deliver programmes tailored to meet the needs of their respective communities.
6 For instance, the Marsiling and Jalan Kukoh workgroups realised through the engagements with residents that there were still unmet needs for children and youth programmes. They thus brought in student volunteers and SSAs to organise reading and tuition for these two communities. The Jalan Kukoh workgroup also noticed a sizeable number of transnational families in their area, and brought in community partners to provide language courses for foreign spouses, and reading and numeracy classes for children. Beyond these programmes, there are also homework cafés and sports activities for students, as well as parenting programmes and skills upgrading and job matching services for the adults.
7 Corporate partners – including medical start-ups, law firms and educational groups – have readily offered their expertise and time to provide free health screening, legal advice and schooling materials. Saturday Kids – a coding school for children – will provide free coding classes to students from vulnerable backgrounds in Kembangan-Chai Chee. This is part of its Code in the Community programme that is supported by Google and the Infocomm Media Development Authority, to improve digital literacy of young Singaporeans from vulnerable families.
Strengthening partnerships through technology
8 To support frontline officers in rendering Comprehensive, Convenient and Coordinated support to vulnerable individuals and families, MSF is developing two new systems that will significantly improve collaboration across agencies:
(i) The first system is a platform that will enable frontline officers to provide more comprehensive support to clients. Through digitalisation and data sharing, it reduces the need for clients to submit multiple documents to various agencies. Frontline officers are able to get a fuller picture of clients’ circumstances much quicker to make faster and more accurate assessments. Clients benefit from greater convenience and more timely assistance.
(ii) For families facing complex challenges, frontline officers often need to make referrals to other agencies and coordinate support closely across agencies. We will digitalise this process to make referrals, shared assessments and coordination across agencies easier, so that families can be helped more expediently and holistically.
9 An estimated 5,000 frontline officers from both Government and community agencies will progressively use the systems from the second half of 2020, to provide comprehensive and coordinated support to vulnerable individuals and families.
Connecting Clients to More Agencies through Video-Conferencing
10 To offer greater convenience to low-income families, MSF has expanded video-conferencing capabilities at the SSOs. Besides financial assistance, all SSOs now offer access to employment and housing advice either in person through physical co-location of services, or via video-conferencing. Clients can link up virtually with career coaches from Workforce Singapore (WSG) and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) for employment assistance, or connect with Housing & Development Board (HDB) to check on the status of their rental flat application directly at the SSOs. Selected SSOs also offer access to family and legal advisory services.
11 By offering such services through video conferencing, clients need not make multiple trips to agencies. This has helped clients to save approximately 400 hours of travelling time last year. Officers also found it convenient and operationally efficient to speak to clients who might have difficulty travelling to their offices, often due to health issues or caregiving responsibilities. We are looking to scale up our video-conferencing network to include family, legal advisory and healthcare services over the next few years.
Mobilising town-level resources to address local issues
12 Beyond technology link-ups, MSF is fostering closer partnerships at the town-level through the SG Cares Community Network sessions. MSF completed the first wave of 19 SG Cares Community Network sessions through its 24 SSOs in 2019. These sessions brought together 3,500 participants from 160 government and community help agencies across the social, health and community sectors. Through these sessions, like-minded partners worked together and jointly implemented 60 collaborative projects.
13 One of the spin-off projects is "Stories About Us” – a ground-up initiative that stemmed from a SG Cares Community Network session for Serangoon and Hougang partners. Community partners discovered a common desire to provide better support for clients facing mental health issues. They were keen to speak with recovering mental health patients to better understand their challenges. “Stories About Us” – a focus group discussion was organised in 2019 to understand the obstacles that clients with mental illness faced, and find out how agencies could be better organised to provide adequate support.
14 Going forward, to give partners and volunteers more say in shaping town-level discussions and developments, the second wave of SG Cares Community Network sessions, which started in November 2019, is being conducted in a hackathon format. The sessions are collaboratively organised by SSOs, community partners, and volunteers. Workgroups led by community champions will help to translate ideas raised during SG Cares Community Network sessions into projects that would meet local needs.
ANNEX A: Frequently asked questions