Nurturing Resilient Youth and a Caring Society
1 Building a strong social compact starts with building resilient and caring individuals. This begins from nurturing our youth to bring out the best in them.
I. IMPROVED OUTCOMES FOR AT-RISK YOUTH
2 All youth, including our vulnerable and at-risk ones, can be resilient individuals. We must support them well, so they too can realise their full potential.
3 Mr Murali Pillai asked how we can do so.
a. The National Committee on Prevention, Rehabilitation and Recidivism (NCPR), which I co-chair with MOS Faishal of MHA, oversees national efforts to prevent offending, re-offending and enhance rehabilitation of offenders. Through the Localised Community Network (LCN) pilot, we provide wraparound, coordinated support to children and youth with complex family circumstances or those who exhibit at-risk behaviours.
b. MSF also works closely with appointed agencies to run programmes aimed at reducing at-risk behaviours, such as “Youth GO!”.
4 Over the years, we have made steady progress.
a. The number of youths arrested has fallen by about 40% over the last decade.
b. Pre-court diversionary programmes have significantly contributed to keeping first-time youth offenders who commit minor offences out of the court system.
II. BUILDING A PREVENTIVE SUPPORT SYSTEM FOR AT-RISK YOUTH
5 We will continue to work with our partners to build a preventive support system for our youths.
6 We will pilot a mentoring programme targeted at students who leave ITE prematurely. We have two main objectives:
a. First, to expand the youths’ network of positive relationships. We hope that the young mentees find lifelong friends and role models in the mentors, pick up useful life skills, and gain access to a trusted adult that they feel comfortable reaching out to.
b. Second, to empower the youths to achieve their aspirations. We hope to broaden their exposure to opportunities, and support them in building on their strengths and talents. We intend to gather mentors from various industries, to guide the youths to explore potential careers in areas they are interested in. Where possible, mentors will pave the way for internships, apprenticeships, or job placements for these mentees.
7 I am also pleased to update that from February 2021 – that’s last month – post-care support for youths discharged from MSF Youth Homes has been extended from two months to one year for all youths discharged from the Homes.
8 Beyond this, we invest upstream in family and community resources to address risks and disadvantages as early as possible:
9 And we also regularly review our legislation to better safeguard the welfare of our youth and children.
10 Ms Sylvia Lim asked about the impact of the amendments to the Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA) passed by Parliament in 2019.
a. Most amendments took effect from July last year. Implementation has been smooth so far.
b. We extended protection to older children who are abused or neglected, by raising the age limit from 16 to 18. From July to December 2020, MSF investigated 25 such cases involving older children.
c. The shift from “Beyond Parental Control” to “Family Guidance Orders” emphasises the family’s responsibility in guiding their children. Now, parents and children must attend a family programme, before parents can apply to the Court for a Family Guidance Order. The intent, really, is to equip families with ways to resolve conflict and strengthen family relationships to avoid the need for the Court to intervene. The regime is still new at this point in time, and we need time to monitor its implementation.
d. We are enhancing our capacity and capability to rehabilitate youth offenders. It would take resources and time to strengthen safety and security, before MSF Youth Homes are able to take in additional youths.
11 And on a related note, we are also reviewing the Adoption of Children Act (ACA); to seek public feedback on proposals to better safeguard the welfare of adopted children.
III. EMPOWERING YOUTH AND THE COMMUNITY TO CONTRIBUTE TO SOCIETY
12 Our efforts would not be possible without close collaboration with the community. As Minister Masagos mentioned, we are strengthening partnerships with the community, and encouraging the spirit of giving and volunteering to uplift our vulnerable communities.
13 Mr Mohd Fahmi Bin Aliman asked how we are empowering our youths to contribute to building a resilient and inclusive society. Many youths have been leading and igniting change through community initiatives, and we are actively partnering them to channel their energy and ideas for good. And I’ll be sharing more examples later on in my speech.
14 Mental well-being is a pertinent issue of our time, brought to the fore by the pandemic. At the start of the Circuit Breaker, MSF and MOH set up a dedicated National CARE Hotline, to provide psychological first aid to Singaporeans. The hotline has managed over 40,000 calls since it commenced operations in April last year. And in recent months, with the gradual lifting of COVID measures, total calls managed has decreased and stabilised to 1,500 calls a month, including about 450 per month that need emotional support. But beyond this, there is more that we must do as a society to promote mental well-being.
15 Mr Shawn Huang and Mr Xie Yao Quan asked how the Youth Mental Well-Being Network (YMWBN) will help to support youths. The Network gives us a platform to brainstorm with the community and try out new ideas to better support our youths’ mental well-being. As MOS Xueling shared at MOE’s COS, Network members have initiated over 30 potential projects to date. I took part in a brainstorming session in October last year, and was very heartened and inspired by the many good ideas exchanged.
a. One such initiative is Driving Resilience & Inspiration for The Incredible Next Generation, or DRIFTING in short. Led by Network members Ms Francesca Wah, Mr Caleb Tan, Mr Jerry Seah, Mr Pang Lim and Mr Chan Ming Hui, DRIFTING is an outreach programme that aims to provide positive peer support for at-risk adolescents. Tapping on the experiences of former youths-at-risk and informal community touchpoints such as hairdressers and mama shop owners, DRIFTING seeks to strengthen the social support network and introduce protective factors for at-risk adolescents. The team will soon be ready to recruit volunteers and conduct outreach.
16 Our youths are also actively involved in causes to help the vulnerable.
a. 17-year-old Brendson Tan has been involved in ground-up initiative Mummy Yummy since 2013, when his grandmother started the initiative with three other mothers to distribute meals to families in rental flats. As deputy lead of the youth team, Brendson leads over 200 youth volunteers to distribute food door-to-door. He also leads weekly house visits in Bedok to check on residents’ well-being.
b. Increasingly, youths also want to have a voice in the policy-making process. We constantly find ways to involve youths in our consultations. For instance, the Youth Advisory Group (YAG) provide their perspectives to the NCPR, which I co-chair with MOS Faishal.
17 In recent years, MSF, community agencies, and religious organisations have also joined hands to form various networks to address social issues.
a. The PEERS Network1, for instance, has 35 partners who run Safe Sound Sleeping Places or S3Ps in short, and mobilise volunteers to reach out to rough sleepers. I recently joined the Catholic Welfare Services and Homeless Hearts of Singapore on their night walks. On one walk, we met two uncles who shared their concerns about safety and about losing their belongings when they sleep rough. They were actually initially quite hesitant to move into a shelter. But upon our MSF officers’ follow up on the very next day – they went to engage the uncles again and gave them assurance that the shelters would be suitable and adequate for their needs – they eventually moved into the shelter. They are now in touch with the HDB and MSF’s SSOs to gradually work out their housing and financial needs.
b. Other volunteer networks which the public can join include the Vulnerable-in-Community (VIC) Network, which befriends and supports vulnerable individuals, including tissue paper sellers and cardboard collectors; the Charity Food Workgroup for instance, which coordinates charity food support to beneficiaries; and the earlier-mentioned ComLink, which supports families in rental flats.
c. We hope that more Singaporeans will join us in stepping forward to make a difference.
18 Mr Speaker sir, in Mandarin, please.
22 我们将继续与国人合作，共同打造一个以“坚韧斗志”与“博爱大同”等情操 为核心的社会，以便面对未来所带来的挑战。
23 In closing, let me round back to the questions that Minister Masagos posed earlier: What is our shared vision for the future? What kind of society do we want to be, and what legacy do we want to leave for our future generations?
24 The future is ours to shape. From conversations with the public to spirited discourse with members of this House, we share a vision to build a society where all Singaporeans have access to opportunities to achieve their dreams, and that no one is left behind.
25 MSF will continue to work with Singaporeans to build resilient individuals, strong families, and a caring and inclusive society, so that Singapore can thrive no matter what the future brings.
26 Thank you.
1 Partners Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers (PEERS) Network, set up in July 2019