15 November 2021 (Mon), 9.20 am
Mr Yong Lum Sung, Chairman, Care Corner Singapore
Our many partners
Ladies and Gentlemen
My heartiest congratulations to Care Corner Singapore on your 40th Anniversary.
Thank you for the work that you have done throughout the years. I heard just now about how this initiative started for a small group of people and how it has blossomed over the years to serve so many communities, so many parts of our society. Thank you so very much, Care Corner. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of Care Corner’s conference.
The theme of today’s conference is “Forging new pathways”. The theme is particularly apt, given the current COVID-19 pandemic. It reminds us of the importance to continually seek out improvements in how we serve our clients. Since COVID hit, our FSCs have been seeing more clients - with the active caseload per quarter at an all-time high of 20,000 compared to an average of about 17,000 before COVID. The number of individuals who benefitted from ComCare has also increased from around 78,000 in FY2019, to around 96,000 in FY2020. Social service professionals have also shared that clients seem to be facing many multi-faceted and complex problems, perhaps made worse by COVID-19.
At the same time, our support services in the community have had to deal with the many changes that have arisen due to COVID-19. They have had to adapt to the constraints of safe management measures and also reduced face-to-face interactions with clients. I have no doubt that this presents stress to our community partners and to our social workers because each and every one of you here want to do so much for your clients. And I know that a lot of it is a face-to-face business; if you cannot see your client, you cannot touch them literally, you cannot get a sense of how they are feeling or how they are doing. I know that each and every one of you are not only looking at this as a job or task to be done. You are deeply concerned about how your clients are doing. So in these circumstances we really have no choice but to ‘forge new pathways’ to make sure our clients continued to be served well.
Thank you all for working so hard during this pandemic period. I know we have all been working doubly, if not triply, hard and you have had to manage so many constraints and so many changes during this period of stress. I also hope that all partners and friends exercise self-care. There is a saying, that you cannot pour from an empty cup. So you have to take care of yourself before you are able to fully take care of those around you.
Forging New Pathways
As a community, while we work on resolving the immediate challenges of our clients, we also look towards the future, and see how we can change with the times and innovate.
I would like to suggest an acronym to help us think about how we can forge new pathways together.
i. The first letter in the acronym GPS is “G”, which stands for going upstream, to proactively meet our clients’ needs before they become intractable;
ii. The “P” refers to partnering others via a whole-of-society approach, as any single agency is unable to address complex needs alone; and
iii. The “S” is about strengthening service delivery, about putting our clients at the centre, to ensure help is Comprehensive, Convenient and Coordinated.
When we go upstream, we ensure that root issues are tackled in a timely manner and we prevent issues from worsening over time. This is particularly important when we are talking about children and their family. For children, the early years are a critical window for their development, we all know this as parents ourselves, or when we look at our families. So the KidSTART programme is a core programme that MSF has, which aims to help children aged 0 to 6 years old from low-income families. We are trying to enable them to have a good start in life, regardless of their background. This was also something that Prime Minister Lee spoke about very recently, when he talked about making sure that we uplift our children and our families, and about working hand in hand together. A very important part of the work is about empowering parents with the knowledge and skills across different areas of child growth, development, parent-child interactions, health and nutrition. We know about the phrase “Healthy Mind, Healthy Bodies” and it also works the other way around. We hope to make sure that our parents know how best to take care of their young children, and we will work with them on this journey. Care Corner has been a key partner; you provide consultancy and coaching support to KidSTART practitioners, and we are looking to roll out the KidSTART programme more aggressively in the next couple of years, and it has been rolled out to more preschools.
For youth, upstream support can help young people form good habits, behaviours, and coping mechanisms, in order for them to achieve their fullest potential. This is the objective of Care Corner’s swiTCH-UP!, a 3-year preventive programme which partners schools to strengthen their students’ coping capabilities and prepare students to manage stressors in life.
We also want to do more for couples whose marriages may be showing early signs of stress. For these couples, we have the Strengthening Families Programme @ Family Service Centres (or FAM@FSCs for short). It was only last week when I talked about how we are scaling up our pilot from two sites to 10 for the FAM@FSCs and we are so grateful that Care Corner is an integral partner in this process. Through your help, we consolidate existing programmes such as marriage and divorce support and family counselling, to holistically address family relationship and marital issues.
Finally, we also want to go upstream with lower-income families, and partner them so that they can become self-reliant and eventually achieve greater social mobility. To do this, MSF started Community Link pilots in 2019 and is in the process of
scaling ComLink nationally. Under ComLink, we proactively reach out to families with young children in rental flats, to understand their needs, hopes and also support them in their aspirations. We then work with befrienders and partner agencies to address these issues.
In the examples of programmes that I have mentioned about going upstream, the key to their success, and what ties them together, is really about working hand-in-hand with the stakeholders in our community, through a whole-of-society approach which involves the people, private and public sectors. Therefore, this is the “P” in the GPS I mentioned earlier, about partnering others in our efforts to uplift the vulnerable.
In building partnerships, we should always keep in mind the spirit of shared responsibility in Singapore, and this has served us well through the years. Through this spirit, individuals are motivated to improve, families and communities are able to respond quickly to provide support where needed, and the government provides the safety net and also create conditions for growth. Partnership is therefore necessary in this process for this shared responsibility to work.
The spirit of shared responsibility is well reflected in the Singapore Together movement, where people from all walks of life come together to shape and act on our shared future together. We see this spirit in the SG Cares Community Network, where government ministries, community agencies, and volunteers foster relationships, generate new ideas, and explore possible collaborations. The SG Cares networks have also expanded to every town.
Under the SG Together movement, we leverage Alliances for Action (or AfAs for short), to bring together people from different parts of the community to work towards a shared goal. The AfAs under MSF include the AfA for Caregivers of Persons with Disabilities, and the AfA to Strengthen Marriages and Family Relationships, which we launched in August this year. With such AfAs, we hope to encourage more community efforts and community support, as we work together towards building a Singapore that is Made for Families.
15. Recently, the family violence taskforce has announced 16 recommendations, organised along four key thrusts, with family violence survivors at the centre. Care Corner was an extremely important partner in this process as we deliberated the recommendations. To highlight what the 4 thrusts were:
i. To increase awareness, strengthen societal attitudes and enhance preventive efforts
ii. To make it easier for them to report and get immediate help
iii. To strengthen protection and support to reduce their risk of being harmed again
iv. To increase accountability of perpetrators and strengthen their rehabilitation
The Taskforce’s recommendations are a testament to the strong partnership between various parties in working together they were a culmination of one and a half years of work, and Care Corner was a critical partner in the process. In the next few years, MSF will continue to work closely with community partners because our work does not stop at just providing recommendations. We need to be able to execute the recommendations. Some of the recommendations will require at least two or three years for us to see them executed on the ground. And there will be recommendations that require legislative changes. So the work of the Family Violence Taskforce has not stopped. We will need to work together with our community partners to ensure that our recommendations make an impact on the ground, and we look forward to working closely with Care Corner in the process. One of the recommendations is the introduction of on-site forensic-trained psychologists to all Family Violence Specialist Centres as well as Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection Specialist Centres, to be at each specialist centre. In the next 1-2 years, MSF hopes to roll out the introduction of on-site forensic-
trained psychologists, to better support agencies such as Care Corner in their work to support survivors of violence.
I also wish to acknowledge the Specialist Centres, including Care Corner’s Project StART (Or CCPS for short), for their tireless efforts in addressing family violence issues. Within the context of family violence, Care Corner has also been working with survivors who face complex issues, such as sexual violence within the family. Also, building on a wide-ranging experience with survivors, since January 2021, CCPS has collaborated with MSF to pilot a sexual violence recovery service to support persons who have experienced extra-familial sexual violence. In the past few months, they have been journeying with 20 individuals who have been survivors of sexual violence, including those that occurred outside of the family such as dating violence, sexual assault in public places, workplace sexual harassment, and tech-facilitated sexual violence. I commend Care Corner for the pilot as their social workers have had to develop a range of skills to manage the cases sensitively. I have been speaking with Agnes from Care Corner and she has shared with me that victims of sexual assault often internalise the shame. Taking on a trauma recovery lens, social workers and counsellors would work with victims on coping with the impact of the sexual assault on their everyday life, before moving to right site the shame of sexual violence and create hope for their future. I am happy to announce today that MSF supports CCPS’s sexual violence recovery service and that it will be scaled up to be a full programme moving forward. What this means is that CCPS can take cases from any agency that refers cases to them. Survivors of all forms of violence, which includes both intra- and extra-familial sexual violence, will be able to seek help from CCPS. With this, CCPS and PAVE will be the two specialist protection centres in Singapore that are able to provide comprehensive support, such as counselling support and interventions, for survivors of all forms of violence, including sexual violence.
In the spirit of working together, I encourage and welcome new ideas from our guests here today, on additional areas of partnership, to identify, co-create and deliver solutions together.
Strengthen service delivery
Not only should we Go upstream and Partner others, but we should also work together to Strengthen service delivery (the “S” in GPS), to ensure that help provided is Comprehensive, Convenient and Coordinated. We can strengthen delivery
through our efforts in the areas of: People, Processes and Systems.
Our people, whether staff or volunteers, are our most important resource, and we should continue to build their capabilities and develop them, so that they can offer more comprehensive support to clients. For example, we have been equipping frontline staff across agencies to better identify clients’ needs and connecting clients to relevant help. 2,373 frontline staff across 14 government agencies have been trained to share information or make referrals to appropriate agencies when they
encounter clients who have needs beyond their agencies’ scope.
There are plans to extend this training to community partners and volunteers.
Processes continue to undergo streamlining to minimise the administrative load on our clients when seeking support. For example, there are now Streamlined Assessment Protocols, to ensure that clients can get support from multiple schemes,
without having to make separate applications. Similarly, another example is the Volunteer Centres set up by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and operated by Community Partners in various towns, which help to streamline volunteer resources by coordinating efforts and working with partners in the community.
Our IT systems also help us increase the convenience to our clients and help them receive support more expediently and holistically, and we should continue to leverage on data and systems to facilitate linkages and coordination across partners. For example, we have collaborated together to develop key systems such as:
i. One Client View, which allows frontline officers to obtain a comprehensive view of clients’ circumstances;
ii. Case Connect, which is the common platform that allows frontline staff and case workers to make referrals to other agencies, share assessments and updates, as well as coordinate on a case together;
iii. SSNet One, which allows SSOs and agencies like FSCs and FAM@FSC to share information and improve coordination of social services, through an integrated case management system.
In conclusion, at today’s conference, we will hear academics, as well as colleagues from the healthcare, education and social sectors share about how they have forged new pathways in uplifting the vulnerable.
Once again, congratulations to Care Corner on your 40th Anniversary. I wish all participants a fruitful day of discussion and wish Care Corner Singapore all the best as you endeavour to bring care to every corner in Singapore. Thank you so much.
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