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Speech by Mr Desmond Lee at the Committee of Supply 2020

Chairman,

1   I thank members for your thoughtful and heartfelt speeches.

2   Over the last few years, we have been working with many community partners and stakeholders

a. to transform our social sector

b. better enable Singaporeans to seize opportunities,

c. and uplift those who have encountered setbacks,

d. at every stage of their lives.

I. THE NEXT BOUND: TRANSFORMING OUR SOCIAL SAFETY NET

3   MSF will continue to push ahead with efforts to transform our social safety net in three significant ways.

4   First, we will go upstream and intervene early, where possible.

a. Intensive downstream measures or casework remain necessary to support those who have fallen behind.

b. But I think we all agree that prevention is better than cure.

5   Second, we will continue to put individuals and families at the centre of our work. Not agencies and organisations, but people and families.

a. The needs of families and individuals can be complex and inter-locking.

i. They can seldom be addressed by a single organisation on its own.

ii. Yet as we bring in more partners, we also need to make sure that it is simple and intuitive for families to access help and resources.

b. So we will continue to

i. streamline structures and processes,

ii. tighten coordination across partners,

iii. and organise services around families and individuals.

6   Third, we will reach out and work with even more partners to transform our social safety net together, and to address the challenges in the social sector that DPM mentioned in his Budget Speech.

a. In order to achieve greater impact, we have to reach out, build relationships, earn the trust of our partners, collaborate and draw on the diverse strengths of the people, private and public partnerships.

b. To facilitate such partnerships, we will build capability, tap on technology to strengthen links between partners, and grow organic local community networks.

7   So let me share some details about how we are pushing ahead in some of these areas.

II. INTERVENING EARLY TO GIVE INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES A GOOD START

8   First, expanding our early intervention efforts, to give every child and every family a good start.

A good start for every child

9   The early years are critical for a child's development.

10   Over the past decade, we have made significant progress in making quality preschools more accessible and affordable for Singaporean families.

a. In January,

i. we increased the preschool subsidies for low- and middle-income families,

ii. and enabled more families to benefit from the Additional Subsidy by raising the monthly household income ceiling from $7,500 to $12,000.

b. We also support our Anchor and Partner operators

i. to keep their fees below the caps set by ECDA,

ii. and invest in improving the quality of their programmes.

11   We will do more. To enable more families to access affordable and quality preschool, we will extend the Partner Operator scheme for another five-year term, starting from January 2021.

12   We have 250 Partner Operators today. In the new term, we intend to appoint more.

a. When we do so, we will further lower the fee caps, so families with children attending these centres can pay lower fees for quality preschool education.

13   For low-income families, we provide upstream support to them and their children through KidSTART.

a. Since 2016, KidSTART has benefitted over 1,000 children.

b. With the positive feedback, we will expand KidSTART to reach 5,000 more children & their families over the next 3 years.

14   And in conjunction with this, we launched the 'GROWING TOGETHER with KidSTART' movement.

a. Where individuals and organisations can contribute directly to the growth and development of children from lower income households.

b. If you join us, you can partner families, the community and the government

c. To provide extra resources and support, and watch these children grow up.

15   We hope more of you will step forward and work with us to give our children the best possible start in life.

a. This is again one of the social sector challenges that DPM referred to in his Budget Speech -

b. to grow a whole-of-society effort to better support children from low income families.

16   Our efforts to give every child a good foundation go beyond preschool.

a. Working parents may not have time to supervise their children after school.

b. For some parents, student care services can fill this gap by providing a structured and conducive after-school environment.

c. This augments the foundation built in school.

d. Therefore, we will increase subsidies to make student care more affordable and accessible for lower-income families.

17   My colleague, SPS Faishal, will share more details later.

Protecting vulnerable children

18   Sir, giving every child a good start also means protecting children who are vulnerable.

19   Last September, Parliament amended the Children and Young Persons Act. The raising of the age limit for children and young persons from 16 to 18 years will enable more children to benefit from care, protection and rehabilitation, if needed.

20   MSF has been working with community partners and agencies on implementation and capability building.

21   We aim to bring the first set of amendments into effect in the second quarter of this year. SPS Faishal will elaborate on this in his speech.

Strengthening and supporting families

22   I will now touch on what we are doing to go upstream, to strengthen and support families.

23   A strong marriage is the foundation for a strong family.

a. Marriage preparation programmes help couples build a strong foundation for their married life

b. and pick up useful skills such as communication and conflict management.

24   Mr Seah Kian Peng asked how we are making these programmes more accessible and affordable.

25   To encourage more couples to take up such programmes, we have been providing generous rebates, and will continue to do so.

26   When couples start a family and become parents, they will face a new set of challenges.

a. And so evidence-based parenting programmes, such as the Positive Parenting Programme or Triple P, have helped parents to pick up skills to manage difficult behaviours exhibited by their children, and to reduce their parenting stress.

27   Ms Irene Quay asked for an update on Triple P, in front of her children.

a. In 2014, we piloted Triple P in primary and secondary schools.

b. After we saw how it helped parents, we expanded it to more schools.

c. Today, Triple P is offered in 295 primary and secondary schools in Singapore, and over 20,000 parents have attended.

d. An online option for Triple P - or Triple P Online - is also available for the convenience of parents.

28   Last year, we decided to put in more structure to our upstream family support, and anchor upstream support at the regional and community level.

a. And so we appointed 10 social service agencies as regional Parenting Support Providers or PSPs.

b. Besides working with schools in their regions to deliver Triple P to more parents, these providers also serve as one-stop shop offering a wider range of programmes.

c. This allows PSPs to provide more customised support for each family.

29   These moves incorporate feedback that we've received - that early support is important to help parents pick up skills for more effective parenting.

a. As families get smaller, and increasingly both parents work, it can be challenging for families to strike a balance between work and family life

b. So we will do more to give families early support in their parenting journey.

Providing early support to reduce acrimony and improve outcomes for children

30   Ms Rahayu Mahzam asked about the status of recommendations made by the Committee to Review and Enhance Reforms in the Family Justice System. We have accepted the Committee's recommendations, which includes more upstream pre-divorce support for couples. The feedback and our assessment has been uploaded on the Internet. They are quite detailed. The member can find more details there.

31   Over the course of marriage, there will be couples who face significantly more challenges.

a. Some may consider divorce as an option.

b. We will develop an online portal to support these couples.

32   The portal will make it easier to access marriage counselling. We hope that this will help couples to make better decisions, and to give their marriage another chance.

33  But for those who decide to proceed with the divorce, the portal will consolidate information and resources on housing, finance, and other important issues that will significantly impact the family's lives after divorce.

a. This helps couples to better understand the practical implications of their decision,

b. and reduces the need for couples to approach multiple agencies for information.

34   Children are often the most severely affected in a divorce. The portal will help couples understand the immediate as well as long term impact on children, learn how to co-parent effectively, and point them to relevant services if needed.

35   Currently, divorcing parents with minor children, who are unable to reach an agreement on divorce, are required to attend the Mandatory Parenting Programme or MPP, where counsellors from the Divorce Support Specialist Agencies help them better understand the practical issues of divorce.

36   We will ride on the online portal to introduce an enhanced Mandatory Parenting Programme.

a. This will help divorcing parties better understand their specific circumstances and needs through an e-learning module, and have a more personalised discussion with their counsellor.

b. Both this enhanced programme and the online portal will be ready in the later part of next year.

37   However, some couples are hesitant to use face-to-face counselling services or prefer online avenues.

a. To overcome this, MSF will implement a two-year pilot with the Community Psychology Hub, to provide online counselling through live chat or email later this year.

38   This pilot can reach out to 200 clients a year.

39   We hope that this online channel will encourage those who are hesitant about face-to-face services to seek help earlier.

40   We will assess the demand and response to this service, before making it available on the online portal itself.

41   To ensure that the online portal is truly useful, relevant and sensitive, we will engage Singaporeans in focused group discussions in the third quarter of this year, to seek honest feedback and develop various aspects of the portal such as design, content and flow.

42   Mr Louis Ng asked whether MSF could require divorce rulings to specify which parent can list their child as an essential occupier when applying to buy an HDB BTO flat. I think he asked the same question during MND's COS and also got his answer.

a. Sir, it is better for couples to work out arrangements between themselves. It involves their children, and they will be co-parents for the lives of their children as they grow up. This is where the initiatives I just described - the portal, online counselling - could help them work out the best care arrangements for their children.

b. Having said that, the member is right that not all divorces are amicable.

c. HDB is prepared to consider waiving the mutual agreement requirement if there is clear evidence that one party has already moved on.

d. And the Courts ultimately have the power to make care and control orders and impose conditions. Parties may return to Court for detailed rulings, if necessary.

Support for single parents

43   Mr Louis Ng also asked about single unwed parents.

a. We recognise the challenges faced by single parents.

b. This is why benefits to support the growth and development of children are given to parents of all Singaporean children regardless of their marital status.

c. Besides the Child Development Account benefits, we have also extended 16 weeks of maternity leave to unwed mothers.

III. CONTINUING TO PUT INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES AT THE CENTRE OF OUR WORK

44   I move on to the second key thrust of our transformation - putting individuals and families at the centre of our work.

Supporting Persons with Disabilities

45   Last year, we announced that we would be integrating the oversight of early intervention services for children with special needs, with mainstream preschool services, under one body - ECDA.

a. ECDA will have a holistic view of the developmental needs of children below the age of seven.

b. They will be able to coordinate early childhood development and early intervention - as one integrated continuum.

46   As a next step, we will further streamline the administration of disability functions. Through our conversations with the community, we recognise that it can be challenging for persons with disabilities and their caregivers to approach different agencies for different needs and different issues.

47   To better support persons with disabilities and their caregivers, SG Enable will be the single touchpoint for disability services and public education efforts.

a. Accordingly, disability service-related functions and programmes currently under MSF HQ and the National Council of Social Service will be transferred to SG Enable.

i. This will strengthen the delivery of services for persons with disabilities and their caregivers across different life stages and needs.

ii. MSF's Disability Office will retain policy oversight over disability matters.

48   We will continue to work closely with our stakeholders to see how to better meet the needs of persons with disabilities.

a. Last year, we formed three Enabling Masterplan workgroups to look at Employment and Employability, Independent Living, and Inclusive Preschools.

b. MOS Sam Tan will provide updates on these three cross-sectoral workgroups in his speech later.

Special Student Care subsidies

49   In our community engagements, we often hear the worries and concerns of caregivers of persons with disabilities.

a. For students with special needs, caregivers tell us that special student care service is essential.

b. Besides helping caregivers to balance work and caregiving responsibilities, the service also helps to reinforce what is taught in school.

50   To better support persons with disabilities and their caregivers, we will make special student care service much more affordable.

a. We will increase the subsidy quantum across all income tiers to reduce what parents have to pay out of pocket,

b. and raise the income cap so that more families can qualify.

51   MOS Sam Tan will provide you the details later.

Supporting families in need

52   We have also adopted this approach of providing wraparound, client-centric support to families with young children living in rental housing. Assoc. Prof Daniel Goh asked whether we track the financial health of families at the bottom income quintile as their expenses seem to be growing faster than their incomes. Lower-income families also seem to be spending more on household and utilities.

53   There are two reasons for these observations.

a. First, some of these families are retiree households who tap on other sources of income, including savings, allowances from children, CPF payouts, and so on.

b. Second, in calculating household expenditure and utilities, rent is included, but mortgage repayment for owner-occupied property is not. Many 1- to 2-room HDB flats are public rental flats. That is why families living in these flats seem to be spending more on housing.

54   In any event, for low-income families experiencing hardship, we provide financial assistance along with support from our community parnters and agencies to help them with daily expenses and household bills, including utilities, public rental fees, and mobile data plans. We regularly review the assistance to account for changes in the prices of essential items as well as changing needs.

55   Assoc. Prof. Walter Theseira and Mr Mohamed Irshad asked how we will assist families who face food insecurity.

a. Our assistance to low-income families through ComCare covers basic needs such as food.

b. For families facing immediate needs, our SSOs offer interim assistance such as cash and supermarket vouchers.

c. We also connect them to community-based support such as free cooked food.

56   Families who are unable to buy or prepare their own meals are also linked up with food ration and meal delivery services offered by social service agencies.

57   We recognise that low-income households may face challenges in eating healthily. The Health Promotion Board works with donors to encourage them to donate healthier and more nutritious food products.

58   The community, too, plays an important role in supporting vulnerable households with food provisions.

a. MSF has been working with food support organisations and charities since 2018.

b. Last year, we convened a workgroup with food organisations and charities, volunteer groups and government agencies to look at how to reduce food waste and inefficiencies in distributing food, in order to ensure that beneficiaries receive healthy and nutritious food.

c. We have made some progress and will continue to work on these issues together.

59   But we want to go beyond providing financial assistance and addressing immediate needs.

a. For families with young children, we want to proactively reach out to provide Comprehensive, Convenient, and Coordinated support.

b. We want to empower them to overcome their challenges, achieve sustained stability, and possibly even purchase their own homes.

c. And we want to bring the community together to do this.

60   At last year's COS, I announced that MSF will be launching Community Link, or ComLink, at four locations - Jalan Kukoh, Marsiling, Kembangan-Chai Chee and Boon Lay. In each location, we wanted to bring partners together to address the community's needs in a proactive and customised manner.

61   Mr Seah Kian Peng, Mr Darryl David, and Dr Lily Neo asked how we work with different community agencies to support individuals and families in need in a more coordinated manner. Our approach is to work with these agencies as equal partners right from the get go.

62   Over the past year, local implementation workgroups comprising social service agencies, schools and preschools, government agencies, and the grassroots

a. went door-to-door to engage all families with young children,

b. and conducted focus group discussions to understand their needs, worries, strengths, and aspirations.

63   Backend, the workgroups held regular case discussions to link families to the right agencies for additional support, coordinate the interventions provided, and track their progress closely.

64   For areas that existing programmes may not fully address, the workgroups roped in new partners to bring new programmes to the community.

a. For example, we noticed that families in Boon Lay lacked conducive study spaces at home.

b. Often, parents are also not able to guide their children academically.

c. To address this, the local implementation workgroup created a home work café at the Residents' Network, with South West CDC contributing funding and NTU students volunteering as tutors.

65   In Jalan Kukoh and Marsiling, we have dedicated ComLink centres to run these programmes. We also make full use of existing community resources. So in Boon Lay and Kembangan-Chai Chee, where the centres are being set up, we maximise existing spaces like the Residents' Network and RCs to operate these community programmes.

66   Not only government and community partners are involved.

a. Corporates and volunteers have stepped forward to offer their expertise and time. For instance, Etonhouse Community Fund donated more than 800 Boxes of Joy with brand-new toys and educational materials to families living in all four ComLink areas in December last year.

b. Doctors and lawyers have stepped forward to provide free health screening and legal advice to residents.

c. Students from polytechnics and universities run tuition and enrichment programmes for the children.

67   ComLink is a good example of the type of cross-sectoral partnerships that can bear fruit, when we come together to address specific needs in our local communities. ComLink is a microcosm of how our future social safety net will look like - proactive, upstream, integrated, and with individuals and families placed at the centre of what we do.

Helping vulnerable families affected by COVID-19

68   During this time, we are also paying particular attention to those affected by the COVID-19 situation.

69   MTI's assessment, as you heard during their COS, is that the economic impact of COVID-19 could be worse than SARS.

a. The Government has introduced measures to help businesses with cashflow,

b. help workers remain employed,

c. and provide additional support for specific sectors directly affected.

70   For MSF, our priority is to support vulnerable families and individuals who are unable to meet basic needs because they are unable to work, or because the sectors they are working in have taken a big hit.

a. First, we provide financial assistance for persons under Quarantine Orders or Stay Home Notices if they are in financial need.

b. We are also tapping on The Courage Fund, which now stands at $3.6 million, to provide additional support for lower-income families who are affected by COVID-19.

c. For social service agencies, ComChest will also be providing support to help them cope with additional expenses.

71   Beyond the challenges it poses to our economy, COVID-19 is also a test of our social resilience.

a. I am encouraged to see people stepping forward to help one another. Many have signed up to volunteer and donated generously to The Courage Fund.

b. Last Sunday, volunteers in the Families for Life Council launched a "Share-the-Care" movement, which encourages families to look beyond themselves to show appreciation to our frontline and their families. All 1,000 Share-the-Care baskets have been adopted and I hope families continue to pay the care forward. In fact, I got a message from one of the families. Their son, who was in secondary school, after playing the games with his parents, packed the basket with new things, went to one of the clinics after it closed to give it to the doctor and said, "This is for you and your family and children." It moved the doctor to tears. Let's continue to stay vigilant, take the necessary precautions, take care of our families, and keep a lookout for one another, and give each other a pat on the back - especially our frontline workers.

IV. WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE COMMUNITY

72   Ms Denise Phua asked how we are tackling social challenges together as a society. The third key thrust of our transformation is indeed about collaborating more intensively with different partners across all areas of our work. Bringing the community into our fold

73   Earlier, I spoke about how we are involving the community through partnerships such as 'GROWING TOGETHER with KidSTART' and ComLink.

74   Members might also recall the PEERS network, or the Partners Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers network. Launched in July 2019, the PEERS network is a diverse group comprising government agencies, charities, religious organisations, and community groups.

a. Mr Murali Pillai asked about how we assist those who have homes but are sleeping in public because of family problems. Government agencies join community partners in the PEERS network on their regular night walks to reach out to rough sleepers, befriend them, and understand their circumstances.

b. For those who are willing to receive help, we address their immediate needs, work on underlying issues, and support them towards eventual longer-term housing.

c. It was not easy initially. There were concerns among our newfound partners that government agencies would forcibly move the rough sleepers off the streets. But as we continued to work with them to look after the rough sleepers' wellbeing, our relationship strengthened.

d. Because of this trust and understanding, we were collectively able to support more rough sleepers in finding longer-term solutions, than if each of us were to work alone. I would like to thank all our partners for your trust, your partnership, and coming together. We welcome more partners to join us on this initiative.

75   Another area that we want to partner the community more rigorously is in enhancing youth mental well-being.

a. The latest Singapore Mental Health Study noted that young people between 18 and 34 years of age had a higher prevalence of mental health conditions, compared to older people.

b. Mental health issues are complex, but prevention, early detection and intervention can go a long way to help.

76   This is not a new area. We are keenly aware of the many issues and struggles faced by those with mental health issues.

a. You have heard from my colleagues in MOE, MOH and MOM on the measures that they have taken and are taking.

b. The community and practitioners on the ground have also done a lot of good work.

77   By bringing a social lens to this issue, however, we can further synergise our efforts and increase our overall impact.

a. A person's mental well-being affects their families, neighbours, colleagues and friends. It is more than a medical issue faced by a person.

b. We want to address the social determinants of health - and consider what kinds of holistic support a person needs to stay healthy.

c. Hence, there is more that we can do together.

78   Last month, we made an open call for persons interested in the topic of youth mental well-being to step forward, connect with us to contribute ideas, and work with us to turn these ideas into reality. This is yet another challenge DPM mentioned, that we are issuing to the social sector.

79   We are very encouraged by the enthusiasm of all who have reached out to us. In total, as of this time, more than 700 individuals and organisations have responded, and the number continues to grow.

a. Many are young people who are concerned by this issue and want to do something about it.

b. Some have struggled with mental health issues.

c. Some are caregivers or therapists of persons with mental health issues.

80   We will be establishing a Youth Mental Well-being Network.

a. Everyone who stepped forward during the open call will have an opportunity to be part of this Network.

b. We will get to know one other, identify areas to collaborate, and work together to deliver programmes and interventions to dev better support our youths.

c. And this work is just beginning. In a way, how we intend to proceed is uncharted waters.

d. But some early ideas have already emerged. For example, providing information and raising awareness about available resources, so that people know where to go for help, and to do so earlier. This is one of the points raised in the conversations we have had thus far.

e. I hope many Singaporeans will partner us to jointly develop solutions for a happier and healthier society.

f. Our young people deserve the best start in life possible.

Supporting capability- and capacity-building among Social Service Agencies

81  The social service sector is a major partner in our endeavour to build a society of opportunities for all.

82   Demand for social services will increase in both scale and complexity, as our social challenges evolve. We therefore need social service professionals with deep skills and capabilities.

a. In April last year, we set up the Social Service SkillsFuture Tripartite Taskforce to bring together academics, professional associations, social service agencies and policy-makers to look at how to enhance the capabilities and effectiveness of the professionals in the sector.

b. Since then, the taskforce has initiated various manpower development projects, which we will share more on in the coming months.

83   Besides skilled and competent professionals, we also need social service agencies with the capability and capacity to deliver outcomes sustainably, effectively, and efficiently.

a. Donors generally prefer to support programmes and services that directly benefit service users and those in need. Understandably so.

b. However, resources are needed to build capability and capacity in our social service agencies.

84   As announced by DPM during Budget, we will introduce the Community Capability Trust. This is a dedicated, long-term fund of up to $480 million to strengthen our social service agencies' capability and capacity, to do more and to do so better.

85   This fund will be made up of contributions from the Government, Tote Board, and the community.

a. Government and Tote Board will provide an initial $200 million in capital,

b. To encourage donors to contribute to capability building, Government and Tote Board will match two dollars to every dollar donated by the community for 5 years, from FY2020 to FY2024.

c. Thereafter, donations from FY2025 to FY2029 will be matched dollar-for-dollar.

86   The Community Chest will also provide an additional $30 million in capital, and spearhead fundraising initiatives to unlock the matching grants. So Let us grow this fund together and use it to prepare our sector for the future.

87   Capability- and capacity-building may sound very abstract, so let me illustrate how our efforts to build up our social service agencies' capabilities can have a real and lasting impact on the people that we serve.

88   There are many examples, but we have chosen a very 'techie' one where the benefit is very clear. Angsana Home is a Welfare Home managed by Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society in Pelangi village.

a. Under the Tech Booster project by the National Council of Social Service, it has implemented the SoundEye monitoring system.

b. The system makes use of smart sensors with AI-enabled sound recognition and motion detection technology to identify abnormal sounds or movements that could give early warning of distress from residents.

c. Angsana Home staff can be more quickly alerted when residents require attention or help, even during night shifts when there may be fewer staff on duty.

d. This allows the Home to monitor residents' safety more effectively and provide better care to residents.

e. This is an example of the work that the CCT will support, enabling the social service agencies to do their work better, to serve beneficiaries more effectively, have better outcomes, and make the work better for social service professionals.

89   We know that building capability and capacity is a long-term effort that requires sustained investment. The CCT will give the sector the time and resources needed to build stronger and more productive social service agencies that are ready for tomorrow's challenges.

Strengthening links between partners through technology

90   To serve clients in a coordinated manner, we also need to strengthen the links across social service agencies, as well as between them and government agencies.

91   Earlier, I spoke about how we work with community agencies as equal partners so that we can operate in concert.

a. Besides working collaboratively, technology is also a key enabler to help us coordinate better.

b. Today, we harness technology to enable our clients to access services more conveniently.

c. Besides financial assistance, all SSOs offer access to employment and housing services.

d. Some also offer access to family and legal advisory services.

92   Most of these services are provided at the SSO through video conferencing to other agencies, making it more convenient for clients who need not make multiple trips to receive support from agencies such as HDB, Workforce Singapore, and Legal Aid Bureau.

93   We will grow this video conferencing network by offering access to more of these services at all our SSOs, and by bringing partners such as Agency for Integrated Care and hospitals into the network, over the next year.

94   Besides using video conferencing, we want to harness technology to provide more comprehensive and coordinated support to clients and beneficiaries. Today, officers may ask clients to submit documents, so that they can better understand their circumstances.

a. This may sometimes include documents that clients had already submitted to other agencies previously.

b. And when one agency needs to make referrals to another, officers often do so over emails for each and every case.

c. After the referral is made, officers may also need to check in with their counterparts to keep track of progress.

95   To streamline these efforts, we will make significant system enhancements.

96   First, the enhanced system will allow frontline officers to make faster and more comprehensive assessments about their clients' needs, through digitalisation and data sharing, across multiple agencies.

a. Clients will also experience greater convenience without having to repeatedly submit documents to multiple organisations.

97   Second, the enhanced system will make it easier for agencies to

a. refer cases,

b. share assessments,

c. coordinate how they are supporting the clients,

d. and monitor the client's progress.

e. This way, all parties can monitor progress and coordinate follow-up action better, to improve a client's situation.

f. This will also reduce the bandwidth tax on families as they seek to tackle the challenges they face.

98   These enhancements will be rolled out from the second half of this year.

a. We will bring agencies on board this system progressively.

b. In steady state, about 5,000 frontline officers from both Government and community agencies will be able to tap on the enhanced system to provide comprehensive, convenient, and coordinated support to the Singaporeans that we serve.

Building networks

99   Technology is important, but it is no substitute for the human touch.

a. This person-to-person connection is critical in the social service sector, because it builds trust and understanding.

b. With mutual trust, we are comfortable calling our counterparts in another organisation,

c. and mobilising support on multiple fronts to address issues quickly.

100   To strengthen these personal connections, we organise SG Cares Community Network sessions every year in each and every town, all across the island to bring together partners from the social, health and community sectors in each town. Through this platform, partners get to affirm and build new relationships.

101   We also invite partners to exchange ideas and best practices on addressing needs in the community. The sessions spark discussions that turn into collaborative projects.

102   We completed the first wave of 19 Community Network sessions island-wide in 2019. Through these sessions, we brought together more than 3,500 participants from 160 government and community help agencies.

103   The Community Network sessions from the first wave catalysed 60 collaborative projects.

a. "Stories About Us", started by community partners in Hougang and Serangoon, is one such project.

b. These community partners saw the need to listen to the voice of those with mental health issues when designing solutions for them.

c. They then engaged recovering mental health patients to understand the challenges they face in navigating social and healthcare agencies and asked them how agencies can better support them.

104   In the second wave, which we have started in November last year, our SSOs will jointly organise these sessions with community partners and volunteers, and develop and implement their ideas together.

105   Chairman, I will speak briefly in Mandarin now.

106   主席先生,社会及家庭发展部近年来积极贯彻"群策群力,共创未来"(Singapore Together)的理念,与人民、社区伙伴和企业紧密合作,加强我们的社会安全网。

107   我们也会以同样的合作方式探讨青年心理健康这个重要课题。研究数据显示,与其他年龄层相比,18到34岁的年轻国人患上心理健康问题的机率比较高。

a. 我在上个月发出了呼吁,希望国人就如何促进青年心理健康工作提出他们的看法。

b. 我们收到了超过七百多则来自于各个群体的回应。 许多回应者是关注这个课题的年轻人,他们希望为此尽一份力。

108   我们将成立 "青年心理健康网",让所有关注这个课题的国人加入,分享他们的意见。

109   我们会仔细地研究各个建议,携手为年轻人的心理健康提供更全面的支援。

110   通过这样的方式,我们能集思广益,更有效地为有需要的国人提供更完善的支持和援助。

a. 我希望更多国人响应号召,积极参与社会及家庭发展部的各个合作项目,与我们一同创造更具爱心与包容心的社会。

V. CLOSING: A WHOLE-OF-SOCIETY APPROACH

111   Chairman, we are committed to nurturing resilient individuals, strong families, and a caring society.

a. We are intervening early to give every child and every family a good start.

b. We are continuing to put those we serve, at the centre of what we do.

c. We are partnering the community, building sector capability, and strengthening networks to work better together.

112   Our society is stronger and more resilient when all Singaporeans come together. When we look out not only for ourselves, but for our families, neighbours, and fellow Singaporeans in need.

113   As DPM mentioned in the Budget speech, the government has identified specific challenges that we are bringing partners across the public, people and private sectors together to address. I also spoke about several initiatives that we will work together with Singaporeans on. These include:

a. GROWING TOGETHER with KidSTART to support low income families with young children;

b. An online portal for those facing difficulties in their marriage;

c. ComLink to uplift families living in rental housing;

d. The PEERS network to assist rough sleepers;

e. The Community Capability Trust to build capability and capacity in the sector; and

f. The Youth Mental Well-being Network.

114   I hope more Singaporeans will step forward to join us in these initiatives, participate in our Community Network sessions or join a Volunteer Centre set up by MCCY in their town.

115   Let us work together to make Singapore a place where those in need are better supported, and where Singaporeans have the chance to pursue their dreams, regardless of their starting points and what they may have encountered as they progress in life.

116   Thank you.

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