To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development that given the increasing stresses on families and individuals due to the current COVID-19 and economiccrisis, what are the measures adopted to keep families intact and maintain the mental well-being of individuals.
1 The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant disruption to our lives. Many have experienced life stressors, at home and at work, including changes to care arrangements for theirdependents, or suffered job or income loss. During this trying period, we are also paying particular attention to vulnerable individuals and families who face more acute challenges in their lives. This crisis has led to emotional, psychological and financial distress for many.
Support for mental well-being
2 In the face of crises, we have rallied together stronger as a society. Many citizens have stepped forward as volunteers to proactively reach out to vulnerablepersons - ranging from providing for the food and medical needs of isolated seniors, to checking in on the well-being of low-income and other vulnerable households. To offer emotional and mental health support to individualsand families, MSF and MOH jointly set up the National CARE Hotline (NCH) in April 2020, which is manned by trained personnel who provide support to callers impacted psychologically or emotionally by COVID-19. Close to 900 trained volunteers have managed over 27,900 calls to the NCH since its launch, offering callers advice, referrals for specific assistance or just a sympathetic listening ear. MSF also runs other Carelines for Persons Under Quarantine (PUQs) and under Stay-Home-Notice (PSHN), to provide them with emotional support. Aside from providing direct psychological support, callers also received information on and referrals to additional resources where needed.
Supporting families’ well-being
3 Additional stressors during the COVID-19 period may cause domestic friction and potentially family violence. During the Circuit Breaker period, MSF’s Adult and Child Protective Services received about 10% more enquiries on average, compared to before the Circuit Breaker. Most of them were related to family tensions with no incidence of violence. We encourage families to seek and receive help early, so that they do not escalate to violence. Together with our community partners, MSF will continue to keep a close watch on family violence and provide counselling, intervention, and refuge to those in need of services.
4 Families facing marital, divorce, and parenting stress can also approach any of our 48 Family Service Centres(FSCs) or an online counselling service set up in April 2020 by MSF with the Community Psychology Hub. In the past 5 months, this service has supported over 700 clients while the FSCs have seen a stable flow of about 1000 clients for parenting and maritalissues during the same period.
Strengthening our families
5 To help families juggle working from home while caring for their loved ones, Families for Life (FFL) launchedthe #FFLShareTheCare online video series during Circuit Breaker. The series covers topics such as parenting, relationship and communications, and caring for newborns. These videos have been well received, with 2.4 million views so far. FFL is also offering Triple P online, an evidence-based parenting programme, free of charge. Triple P has been proven to be effective, with parents reporting sustained reduction of around 20% in both their children’s problematic behaviour scores and parenting stress scores three months after completing the programme. FFL will continue to promote family bonding and nurture resilient families through its annual family campaigns.
Enhancing financial and employment support
6 To provide financial support to middle- and lower-income individuals adversely affected by the economic impact of COVID-19, MSF rolled out the Temporary Relief Fund in Apr 2020 and the COVID-19 Support Grant (CSG) in May 2020. We have also introduced greaterflexibility for low-income households to qualify for ComCare financial assistance. Existing ComCare beneficiaries whose assistance ends between May and Oct this year would have their assistance extended by six months automatically. New Comcare recipients havealso been provided a longer runway of six months’ assistance to regain stability. These measures have worked with other governmental financial assistance schemes to give much needed urgent support to those facing serious financial stress. Social Service Offices have also been facilitating affected individuals to gain access to broader employment and training opportunities by referring them to the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Programme, overseen by the National Jobs Council (NJC).
Strengthening Service Delivery
7 With the impact being more acute for low-income families, MSF has accelerated our outreach to the low-income/vulnerable households since June2020. Volunteers and community partners from our SG Cares Community Networks have been proactively reaching out to the residents, checking in on their well-being and offering additional support where required. In less than 3 months, close to 900 volunteers and community partners have reached out to about 13,000 households, successfully engaging over 6,300 households and referring about 2,300 households for further help.
8 As we continue to fight against COVID-19,many Singaporeans have stepped up to show care and support for one another. We are grateful to many volunteers, community partners and everyday neighbours who have selflessly and tirelessly stepped forward to provide resources, care and support for other Singaporeans. We must continue to look out for one another. Let us continue to stand together, and emerge stronger as one people.