Mr Joshua Tay, Chairman, NeuGen Management Board
Mr Phillip Tan, Chairman, ISCOS Board of Trustees and Co-Chair of CARE Network
Madam Shie Yong Lee, Commissioner of Prisons and Co-Chair of CARE Network
Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen
1. I am delighted to join you to launch the NeuGen Fund and NeuGen’s Neu Empowerment Model which, together, seek to better support the children and families of ex-offenders.
Effect of offending on children and families
2. Joshua mentioned just now about this study – in 2020, my colleagues at MSF and NCSS published this ground-breaking research paper that studied this issue of inter-generational transmission of criminality. Most people may not realise it, but this study took a long time and a tremendous amount of effort. And in Singapore, because we have the data available, we were able to establish this important link.
3. The researchers found that if parents were convicted of an offence, their children were almost 3 times as likely to have contact with the criminal justice system as well, compared to other children. And this has got nothing to do with the children, or the parents, or the family.
a. It is because a criminal conviction can disrupt the parents’ education or employment opportunities, and thereafter the children, and this in turn contributes to a variety social challenges for them and their families and their children, whether it’s financial difficulties, psychological stress, lack of a role model, and so on.
b. Children suffer the most, as they have to cope with the absence of their parents, whom they look up to, or face negative influences – or worse, social stigma.
Efforts to tackle intergenerational offending
4. The findings highlight why it is so important to keep up our efforts to help ex-offenders rehabilitate and reintegrate back to their families and the community. They’ve paid the price and done their time – support them, enable them to move forward, enable them to get back on track, as far as we can.
a. As a society, we should support them and their families, and help them break potential inter-generational cycles of offending.
b. This requires the Government and the community to work together.
5. One such effort is the Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-Offenders (CARE) Network. It is a long name, but when you just call it the “CARE” Network, that gets to the heart of the matter.
a. This CARE Network essentially brings together Government agencies and community partners, to take an integrated, concerted and coordinated approach in supporting the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-offenders, and support their families at the same time.
b. Formed in the year 2000, this network has grown and involves more than 100 community partners, including social service agencies, religious groups, schools, Family Service Centres (FSCs), halfway houses, grassroots organisations and many more.
c. Together, we can help ex-offenders to rejoin the community and, in fact, contribute in their own ways. Today you will hear some very passionate sharings – and they are leaders in this movement – to inspire many others to follow the same path towards progress and rehabilitation.
NeuGen’s Neu Empowerment Model and public education efforts
6. ISCOS is a founding member of the CARE network, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your contributions – for your love, for your patience, and for your care.
7. Since you were formed in 1989, you have been committed to reaching out, supporting and journeying – importantly, journeying – with families of ex-offenders, never giving up on them even when they are down.
8. And as the charity set up by ISCOS, NeuGen, continues to innovate to serve and support these families better.
9. I am encouraged to hear how, despite the challenges of the past two years, making interaction very difficult, the team had taken tremendous effort to review the impact of their model, in order to develop the Neu Empowerment Model. The last two years have been very difficult, but it just speaks to the kind of organisation we’re looking at – ISCOS and NeuGen. That when the going gets tough, you this time to take a step back and review, and see how you can do even better.
a. This model aims to empower these families, and especially their children, to make positive change and work towards a better future.
b. Through various educational and social initiatives, the model supports the families to meet their personal development and family bonding needs, in an environment that is nurturing.
c. For example, you run an After-School Activity that hones the children’s talents and interests holistically, way beyond the classroom. Supporting them in their studies is important, but actually, the children feel inspired to go to school and to learn, if you look at their interests and you empower them, based on what really motivates and drives them – whether it is sports, art, music, or other areas.
d. NeuGen, you also strive to help the children build mental resilience, through counselling and mentoring, to support them in their personal and emotional development as they grow up. It’s also those growing up years, the teenage years, the years where they need their parents the most, the years where young people are just growing and developing – sometimes more fragile, sometimes more resilient – but actually, it’s a difficult time for young people, as they grow up.
10. These initiatives complement existing efforts by the CARE Network and other agencies – so we work together, and you provide this very important contribution.
a. For example, the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) collaborates with community partners such as The Salvation Army and New Life Stories, to support the children of incarcerated parents.
b. They organize family bonding programmes and parenting workshops to improve parent-child relationships.
c. The Prison Service also works with MSF and Family Service Centres to identify and support families impacted by incarceration.
d. By doing this early – earlier rather than later – we can better coordinate community resources to reach out and support families when they need it most.
e. Another ongoing effort is the CapitaLand Empowerment and Resilience Programme launched in 2021 – again, launched during the pandemic.
f. This coordinates efforts to support children in character development, and to help them build their social and emotional resilience.
11. Throughout these programmes, what’s important – and you can tell, the DNA that runs through all this – is that they take a holistic, integrated and coordinated approach. It may be about incarcerated parents, but they support every aspect of the family’s needs.
a. Because ex-offenders and their families often face multiple stressors and challenges that can complicate one another and weigh the family down, and no one organisation serving just one specific, specialised need can address all these challenges holistically–
b. From difficulties securing employment for the parents, to problems at school for the children, and different sources of stress both within and outside the family –
c. Dealing with just one of these issues alone, as I said, is rarely enough to help the families decisively break through their circumstances.
d. And so our agencies and community partners, with different expertise – and it’s important for each and every one of us to specialise and have deep domain knowledge in certain areas and challenges – we need to come together to support the family’s different needs in a coordinated way. With somebody just taking responsibility to coordinate and somebody just journeying, assuring, advocating and supporting the family.
e. This is in line with our broader efforts to transform and strengthen our social service delivery system as a whole – a lot of advice coming from frontliners and social workers about what needs to improve.
12. At the same time, we need to reach out to Singaporeans – Singaporeans are generous people – to help them also better understand the struggles that these families face –
a. So that we can reduce the social stigma – it’s not “us” versus “them”; absolutely not, it’s “we”, all of us together – and misconceptions surrounding ex-offenders, and foster a more conducive environment for them to reintegrate into their families and the community.
13. And so NeuGen, you have organised an exhibition on your work over the years to support these families, including the launch of this very important Neu Empowerment Model.
a. Please ask your family, your friends, your colleagues, your community partners to come take a look at the exhibition, and take that as a launchpad to ask even more questions and get involved, if you feel passionate about this cause.
14. I have served in many departments and agencies that relate to offending, relate to what we call the law enforcement system – I worked in the Courts, then I was a prosecutor, then I served in the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Ministry of Law, and then of course from the social support point of view in MSF, and then in National Development we see their struggles if they have housing issues.
15. Actually, every department, whatever you call them, whether you’re an infrastructure agency, an economic agency, a social agency – all of us are social agencies, because everything we do is really just about people.
a. Nothing can be done in abstract without focusing on society and on people. And actually having worked in all those Ministries – in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Law, Attorney-General’s Chambers – what has always been at the top of mind has been about reintegration, rehabilitation, supporting holistically.
b. Because if you just look at it from the binary point of view of law enforcement, law and order, crime prevention – then, really, you’re not tackling the heart of the issue, which is about people’s challenges, motivations or lack thereof.
c. What we need is really to pull everyone together, put the family and the ex-offender at the heart of what we do – only then can we deploy our limited resources, and our expertise and domain knowledge, to the best service of these families’ futures.
16. To round up, congratulations again to NeuGen on the launch of your Neu Empowerment Model.
17. I look forward to you working closely with ComLink and platforms that service families holistically, and I look forward to your continued partnership, as we work together to support ex-offenders, their families, and their children, and journey with them toward a better life.
18. Thank you very much.