1 The social needs of Singaporeans have become more complex as Singapore's demographics and economy change. This is augmented by the deep and far-reaching impact of COVID-19 on Singaporeans. More people need help, and lower-income and vulnerable households are especially impacted. The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has responded with support during the Circuit Breaker. We will now refresh our strategies and policies, and step up our efforts to meet Singaporeans' needs, as we are still combating COVID-19 and the consequent economic impact. The crisis will not divert us from our efforts to improve social mobility, and we will ensure that no Singaporean is left behind. All Singaporeans will have an important role to play as we strengthen our social compact. We will engage citizens, and work with community and corporate partners in the spirit of SG Together to co-create and co-deliver social policies and programmes that can better serve Singaporeans.
Building a Caring and Inclusive Society
Helping Those in Need
2 We will review and strengthen our social safety nets. Through ComCare, the Temporary Relief Fund, the COVID-19 Support Grant and The Courage Fund, we provided financial and social support to lower-income and vulnerable Singaporeans affected by COVID-19 during the Circuit Breaker and the phased opening up of our economy. We also provided new and existing ComCare recipients with longer periods of assistance. As we brace for a global economic downturn, we will continue to work with other agencies and community partners to strengthen social support for Singaporeans in need, including strengthening support for mental and family well-being. We will also dovetail our efforts with that of the National Jobs Council to facilitate the employment and training of Singaporeans, and assist those who still need help.
Enhancing Social Service Delivery
3 We will enhance social service delivery, so that Singaporeans in need can receive comprehensive, convenient, and coordinated support. This has become especially important, as COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges faced by vulnerable segments of our society who have less resources to buffer against the impact. We will expand our networks and programmes, such as the SG Cares Community Network and Community Link (ComLink), and deepen our collaboration with social service agencies (SSAs), community partners, and volunteers to proactively reach out to vulnerable Singaporeans and support the needs of each town. Through partnerships such as the Partners Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers (PEERS) Network, the Vulnerable-in-the-Community Network, and the Food Workgroup, we will ensure that those in need receive timely help.
Building an Inclusive Society
4 MSF is committed to building an inclusive society by strengthening support for persons with disabilities. We are working with SG Enable and other partners to implement the Enabling Masterplan 3 and develop plans for the next phase beyond 2021. We will systematically reach out to persons with disabilities, and caregivers to better support them. In line with efforts by the National Jobs Council, we will sustain efforts to improve the employment and employability of persons with disabilities. We will also continue to support independent living for persons with disabilities, and maximise their potential at every stage of life. We will aim to provide better support for children with moderate to severe developmental needs within preschools.
Giving Our Young a Good Start
5 To give every child a good start in life, we will build on earlier efforts to enhance the accessibility, affordability and quality of preschools. We have significantly enhanced preschool subsidies so that more families pay less for preschool. We will continue to work with Anchor Operators to build more preschools, and appoint more Partner Operators to assure families that 80 per cent of preschoolers can have a place in government-supported preschools by 2025. In the medium-term, as government-supported places increase, we will further lower their fee caps to enhance affordability. We will also continue to enhance training and career progression of early childhood educators, and raise preschool quality via the Singapore Preschool Accreditation Framework (SPARK). We will strengthen holistic and upstream support for more children from low-income families with the expansion of KidSTART to more regions. Through the Growing Together with KidSTART initiative, we will deepen community partnerships to better support KidSTART families.
6 To support youth-at-risk, offenders, and their families, we will adopt a more preventive approach, as well as better rehabilitative methods, and will work with agencies and partners through the National Committee on Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Recidivism to strengthen our programmes and capabilities. Our youths must continue to have opportunities to succeed in life.
Building Resilience in Our Families and Our Society
Strengthening Our Families
7 The family is the basic building block of our society. We will promote and support families through the Families for Life movement, bringing together like-minded individuals and organisations to build the support eco-system. Together with our community partners and volunteers, we will support couples and families on their marriage and parenthood journey, by providing evidence-based programmes and resources, and encouraging family-friendly practices, such as flexible work and work- from-home arrangements, to help families manage their caregiving responsibilities. We will also strengthen preventive work with early-risk families, such as minor and young marriages and divorced families, and families with stresses through family counselling services, and early-risk marriage and divorce support, so as to reduce acrimony and improve outcomes for children and their families.
Enhancing Emotional and Psychological Well-Being
8 To support families and Singaporeans who faced emotional and psychological stresses during the COVID-19 Circuit Breaker, we set up the National CARE Hotline to provide psychological and emotional support, and referrals for intervention. We will work closely with other agencies and the community to better coordinate our efforts and sustain our support. The Youth Mental Well-Being Network, in particular, will develop and implement initiatives to strengthen support for youths and their families.
Preventing Abuse and Neglect
9 We will continue to protect vulnerable individuals who are abused or neglected, and provide good alternative care for children and vulnerable adults whose families are unable to care for them. The inter-agency Taskforce on Family Violence will consult widely with stakeholders, and further enhance measures to prevent and address family violence.
Supporting and Transforming the Social Service Sector
10 Our SSAs play a critical role in delivering social services to those who require help through COVID-19 and beyond. With the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), we will support SSAs through the Invictus Fund, Community Capability Trust and other supporting programmes and initiatives to build capability and capacity for both the immediate term and the longer term. We will work in partnership with the NCSS-led Beyond COVID-19 Taskforce to drive the transformation of the social service sector to emerge stronger.
11 COVID-19 has provided the added impetus for the social service sector to transform, so as to ensure service continuity and meet increased social needs. NCSS is developing a Sector Digitalisation Roadmap to help build SSAs' capabilities in leveraging innovation, digitalisation, and better use of data, to deliver social services more effectively. Through the Social Service SkillsFuture Tripartite Taskforce, we will partner academia, professional associations, and SSAs to build the sector's manpower capability and competencies.
12 We are glad that there has been an outpouring of support for COVID-19-related causes. We will work with partners to sustain the spirit of philanthropy and volunteerism by encouraging Singaporeans to contribute through varied giving and volunteering opportunities in the community. We will also steward community resources prudently to benefit more Singaporeans.
Emerging Stronger Together
13 COVID-19 is the crisis of our generation. It will require a whole-of-nation effort to ride out this storm. When the government and the people work together in solidarity, COVID-19 will be a temporary setback, and we will emerge stronger. This is the spirit of our nation as we prepare for a future beyond COVID-19. MSF will continue our mission to nurture resilient individuals, strong families, and a caring society. We will partner our agencies, our people, and the private sector, to build a stronger Singapore together.