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Singapore Government

Speech By Mr Eric Chua, Parliamentary Secretary For Ministry Of Social And Family Development & Ministry Of Culture, Community And Youth At Committee Of Supply 2022

Speech By Mr Eric Chua, Parliamentary Secretary For Ministry Of Social And Family Development & Ministry Of Culture, Community And Youth At Committee Of Supply 2022

Journey Alongside Families To Support Individuals Facing Challenges


Mdm Chair,

1           My colleagues have shared how families are the bedrock of our society.

a.        In a supportive family environment, we can better navigate life’s many challenges.

b.        But some families, including families with persons with disabilities, lower-income families, and youth-at-risk, face complex stressors and unique challenges.

2           It is our responsibility as a society to journey with these families, share their burden, and help them regain confidence to pursue their dreams and aspirations.

a.         I will share concrete steps that MSF is taking with our partners to support these families.

I.           ENABLING PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES TO PARTICIPATE MEANINGFULLY IN WORK AND COMMUNITY LIFE

3           Persons with disabilities face unique challenges. Family members who are caregivers to persons with disabilities often make silent sacrifices and experience caregiver stress. We recognise these difficulties and have provided greater support to these families over the years.

4           Ms Denise Phua, Mr Gerald Giam and Mr Mark Chay asked about the current support for persons with disabilities and progress of the Enabling Masterplan.

5           We have provided greater support in several ways. For example:

a.         1,700 new job and training opportunities were created last year. This includes opportunities from the new Place-and-Train and Attach-and-Train programmes, which we will extend till December this year. The Jobs Growth Incentive has supported over 2,900 persons with disabilities between September 2020 and August 2021, which MOM will extend till September this year as well.

b.        We also extended the School-to-Work Transition Programme in January last year, and launched the Enabling Mark in October 2020 to recognise inclusive employers, amongst others.

c.         In October 2021, we increased funding for Day Activity Centres or DACs, by $3 million, or 20%. This will allow our DACs to hire more care staff and to increase the quality of care for clients, and we are similarly reviewing the Sheltered Workshop programme.

6           We have also kept assistive technology devices affordable for persons with disabilities and seniors, through the Assistive Technology Fund (ATF) and the Seniors’ Mobility & Enabling Fund, which Mr Pritam Singh raised.

a.         From April 2019 to December 2021, the ATF benefited close to 7,000 persons, with 66% of beneficiaries from households with per capita income of $800 or less.

b.         Permanent Residents are also eligible for the ATF with differentiated subsidy rates, in line with our position to provide more subsidies to citizens. From April 2019 to December 2021, about 1 out of 60 ATF beneficiaries were PRs who are seniors.

c.         The most common claims included mobility devices like motorised and manual wheelchairs, hearing aids, and daily living aids.

d.         We recently increased the ATF subsidy for Singaporeans with per capita household income of between $801 and $2,000, and expanded the range of items that seniors can be subsidised for to include medical devices like oxygen concentrators and suction pumps.

7           More can be done to support persons with disabilities. I am co-chairing a cross-sector committee with Mr Gan Seow Kee, Vice-Chairperson of the Singapore Business Federation, to develop our next edition of the Enabling Masterplan, or EMP2030. EMP2030 will set meaningful longer-term goals to foster a more caring and inclusive Singapore, which will continually be monitored to ensure that we are on track on our objectives.

8           Today, there is a gap in services for adult persons with disabilities who do not attend any regular disability service after graduating from Special Education schools. We aim to gradually close this gap. One of the ways is through piloting regional Enabling Services Hubs (ESH) and Enabling Business Hubs (EBH).

a.         The Enabling Services Hubs (ESHs), co-funded by the Tote Board, provide persons with disabilities above 18 with a greater range of options for flexible social and learning activities.

i.         Each ESH will identify and reach out to persons with disabilities and their caregivers in their region, understand their needs, and link them to relevant support. Those at-risk will be further supported by community befrienders.

ii.        It will also provide on-site services such as continual learning programmes and social inclusion activities for persons with disabilities, and respite care for caregivers.

b.         While the ESH serves  those with care needs, the EBHs support work-capable persons with disabilities who require customised and longer-term support to work.

c.         We will share more information on these pilots later this year.

9           Ms Rahayu Mahzam and Ms Yeo Wan Ling raised an important point about doing more as a community to support caregivers. Last year, NCSS, SG Enable, and community partners formed the SG Together Alliance for Action (AfA) for Caregivers of Persons with Disabilities, to co-develop a self-sustaining community support model for caregivers. We started with two pilot sites in Boon Lay and Kampong Glam, and the AfA has begun to support the implementation of two projects.

a.         Project 3i is a caregiver-led initiative to provide social and emotional support for caregivers that is integrative, individualised and intentional. It will connect caregivers to form community networks, and support caregivers through peer mentorship and professional support.

b.         The second project is Community Circles, where a small group of friends, neighbours, or volunteers, forms a ‘circle’ of support around caregivers, to provide practical and emotional support.

c.         These projects have initiated an ecosystem of community and peer support that reaches out to caregivers. We will evaluate the outcomes from the pilots and facilitate collaborations, so that more networks can be established to support caregivers.

III.          JOURNEYING ALONGSIDE FAMILIES IN NEED

10          Minister Masagos and Minister Desmond Lee highlighted how MSF has been working to strengthen our social safety net and the delivery of social services, so that low-income households requiring assistance can get comprehensive, coordinated and convenient help.

11          Mr Leon Perera will be happy to know that we have been tackling food security and unhealthy eating as part of this broader effort.

a.         We have helped low-income households to defray the cost of purchases at supermarkets, hawker centres and heartland merchants. This includes grocery vouchers for eligible households in 2020, and Community Development Councils (CDC) vouchers in 2021 and as part of the Household Support Package in Budget 2022.

b.        We also provide comprehensive support to households on ComCare schemes, which can include cash assistance for basic living expenses such as food. ComCare cash assistance rates, which are regularly reviewed, take into account food-related expenditures based on the Health Promotion Board’s nutritional guidelines to ensure that families can meet their nutritional needs.

12         The community also plays a big part in tackling food insecurity. Many charities and community groups have stepped forward to offer food support – dried rations, cooked meals, grocery vouchers – to families facing food needs.

a.         As Ms Denise Phua has mentioned, the efforts of these groups have gone a long way in tackling food insecurity in Singapore, but there are some overlaps and some gaps in the demand and supply of food support.

b.         MSF has been actively engaging food support organisations and community partners to coordinate food support.

c.         We convened the Charity Food Workgroup in 2019, to co-create a more responsive and coordinated food support ecosystem with different stakeholders.

d.         In February this year, we soft-launched the FoodConnect directory and database. This platform allows families and social service agencies to search for food support organisations based on their location and dietary requirements, so that families can receive food which meets their needs. This allows us to move towards a more data-driven and choice-led food landscape where families can choose their preferred type of food support.

13         But we also want to go beyond addressing immediate needs and look at families’ longer-term needs.

14         And this is where Community Link, or ComLink, comes in. Dr Shahira Abdullah asked about ComLink’s objectives and our strategy to help families to attain them.

a.         In the short term, ComLink focuses on helping families with children living in rental housing to achieve stability, where their basic needs such as day-to-day living expenses and whether their children are attending school regularly are addressed.

b.         In the medium term, we support families towards self-reliance, such as to obtain a stable job and sustain their employment.

c.         Stability and self-reliance then serve as building blocks towards the long-term goal of social mobility, where the family achieves real income growth, and the children and youth are able to achieve better life outcomes.

15         ComLink achieves these objectives through its three key pillars.

16         First, we proactively reach out to families upstream to understand their needs, strengths, and aspirations. We have reached out to more than 6,800 ComLink families so far.

17         We then provide targeted and coordinated case support, and then journey with each ComLink family to address their issues before they become more deep-seated.

a.         Together with the family, a customised action plan addressing the families’ issues step-by-step is assembled.

b.         A pair of befrienders provides even closer support. Befrienders journey with families through their ups and downs, and help to keep families’ sights on their long-term aspirations and goals. Together they work with the SSO coordinators to address issues that each of these families might face.

18         For our support to be effective, all stakeholders must work together. And this is where ComLink’s third pillar comes in, where the Government brings together different community partners, corporates, and volunteers to provide support for families, based on collective knowledge about a community’s needs and strengths.

a.         Together, we have introduced 74 ComLink programmes to date, including enrichment programmes to provide children with holistic development, sports programmes to engage youths, and support groups for parents.

b.         This complements the schemes and services that government agencies are providing. Through such customised support, we can have a stab at a transformative effect and set families up for success.

19         Mr Mohd Fahmi Bin Aliman will be glad to know that we are fully on track to fully scale up ComLink over the next few years.

a.         We launched ComLink for 11 towns in 2021 and will kickstart efforts for the remaining 10 ComLink towns in the coming months.

IV.         SUPPORTING YOUTHS TO FULFIL THEIR POTENTIAL AND SUCCEED IN LIFE

20         We also want to give our youths the opportunity to succeed in life. For those with difficult backgrounds and challenges, it is even more important that we support them.

21         The family plays a central role in guiding youth down the right path, particularly during adolescence, and being an anchor through the transition into adulthood. MSF is committed to helping families to do this better.

22         We recognise that mental well-being is an important point not just for youths, but for everyone. As part of the Interagency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-being, MSF is working together with various ministries and agencies across multiple sectors to strengthen mental well-being in Singapore. 

a.         We will increase accessibility to a continuum of services across our healthcare institutions, schools and community agencies, so that everyone can receive the appropriate level of care and support. We also want to make sure that these services are well-integrated so that it is easier to navigate the mental health ecosystem. 

b.          NCSS will expand the Beyond The Label campaign to involve more partners and the public in encouraging early help-seeking and greater acceptance of persons with mental health conditions.

c.          As MOS Gan has previously mentioned, NCSS and MOM are studying ways to strengthen support for persons with mental health conditions before and during employment, and for their colleagues so as to create a more inclusive work environment.  

23        These are all complex issues that can only be solved through a whole-of-society effort. As SMS Janil has mentioned, the Taskforce will be conducting a public consultation on these ideas, and we look forward to developing a national strategy and action plan together with all Singaporeans.

24         Another group of youth who may need special attention are those who leave the formal education system early. Like Mr Shawn Huang Wei Zhong and Mr Seah Kian Peng, we believe in the tremendous value of mentoring for these youth.

a.         Co-designed with MOE and ITE, and in partnership with Trybe Limited, our Career Advice and Mentoring Programme, or CAMP, will expand networks of positive relationships for youth who leave ITE prematurely, and empower them to achieve their aspirations.

b.         Under CAMP, mentors are matched with mentees based on the mentees’ industries of interest, and will guide their mentees in exploring their interests and broadening their exposures to opportunities.

c.         Since its launch in this January this year, 14 mentors and 10 youths have come onboard, and more are expected to join in the coming months. And over the two years' pilot, we aim to support 100 youths.

d.         One of the mentors who has stepped forward is Lawrence Tharekheshwaren Supramany, an ITE alumnus with over 4.5 years of experience in the automotive industry. In his youth, Lawrence was involved in a riot. However, he turned his life around with the support of his community, notably from his pastor, who provided guidance and tutoring. Having personally experienced the transformative effect of a mentor in his life, Lawrence intends to inspire other youths as a CAMP mentor.

e.         MSF will track the outcomes of the CAMP youth, such as placement in education, training or employment, and assess the suitability of scaling up CAMP beyond the pilot phase.

IV.        CELEBRATING AND STRENGTHENING SG FAMILIES

25         As Ms Denise Phua has mentioned, the Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) is an important life planning tool should one lose mental capacity.

a.         As of 2021, about 130,000 Singapore Citizens, or about 4% of all eligible adult citizens, have registered their LPAs.

b.         To promote greater awareness of pre-planning tools such as LPA and Advance Care Planning, MSF and MOH will conduct a joint awareness campaign later this year. We will also launch the new Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) Online system, which allows citizens to digitally make an LPA in a simple, convenient and secured manner. The fee waiver for LPA applications will also run right through March 2023.

c.         On deputyship, there were 2,794 court orders appointing deputies in the past five years, with the number growing at about 25% annually.

d.         To simplify the application process, the Family Justice Courts have enabled applicants to apply for general orders through the simplified track on the Integrated Family Application Management System since 2019. This typically covers powers to consent to medical and dental treatment, care arrangements, manage bank or CPF accounts and insurance, set up Special Needs Trust Company accounts, and employment contracts.

e.         MSF also offers the Assisted Deputyship Application Programme, or ADAP, for persons with disabilities who do not have mental capacity, and who are enrolled in various Special Education schools, Day Activity Centres and Sheltered Workshops. ADAP applicants are provided with mental capacity assessment reports at no cost to the applicant, and guidance for applying via the simplified track.

f.         The simplified track costs $40 in court filing fees and are usually granted within four to six weeks. The costs and duration are higher for more complex court orders, which typically involve adults and elderly who lose capacity without making an LPA. Thus, I urge all Singaporeans to have your LPAs registered, to provide peace of mind to yourselves and to your loved ones. We will continue to work with community partners to facilitate access to pro bono or low-cost services.

26         Mdm, in Mandarin, please.

a.         家庭是我们社会的基石。当我们的青年面临挑战时,家庭是最能够提供安抚的避风港。一时迷途的青年在家人的包容及谆谆善诱之下能够重新找回目标和力量。我深信我们的青年在家庭的爱护下,能够培养坚韧不拔的精神,发挥他们最大的潜能,进而回馈社会。

b.         青年的心理健康是个值得我们关注的课题。父母的辅导和支持至关重要。政府会继续与各个伙伴团体密切合作,从旁辅助有需要的家庭。我们将把青年心理健康网络扩展开来,不再限于青年。我们会继续与社会各阶层合作,集思广益,更好地帮助国人保持身心健康。

c.         我们也需要关注提早离开正规教育的青年。去年,我们宣布为提早离开工艺教育学院的学生推出一项试点计划,让义工导师为他们提供指引。通过这个两年的计划,我们希望能够启发一百名青年以正面积极的态度朝自己的人生目标与理想迈进。

d.         社会及家庭发展部将继续与社区团体合作,加强家庭凝聚力。

27         To conclude, Mdm, MSF has spoken about the suite of policies and programmes to support families with different needs. We will continue to work with the community to build resilient individuals, strong families and a caring society.

a.         Families serve as a beacon of light in our lives. It is an inspiring light that pushes us to greater heights. It is a guiding light that always leads us back if we ever take the wrong path. But it is also a comforting light that provides refuge whenever the going gets tough, and where we look towards to share our joys and anxieties.

b.         Our families also serve as compasses that help us navigate through life. Families shape our values, beliefs, and sense of purpose. Through the storms of life, we need only reach into our pockets for our compass to help us all find our true north.

28         So in this Year of Celebrating SG Families, let us aim to become a bright beacon of light and a trusty compass for our families, just as they are for us.

29         Thank you.

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