1 At the 2018 Committee of Supply debates, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) announced plans to strengthen social service delivery on the ground to provide more holistic and coordinated assistance for individuals and families in need. These include continuing efforts to step up coordination and information sharing among government and community agencies, exploring the provision of more help services through the Social Service Offices (SSOs), and enabling and supporting community efforts towards better social service outcomes. These are ongoing efforts that will be progressively implemented over the coming years.
2 The Government is committed to providing support to individuals and families in need to help them take steps towards self-reliance, in partnership with the community. Over the years, MSF has worked with other Government agencies and community partners to strengthen the delivery, planning and coordination of social assistance and services on the ground. The plans that MSF announced at COS 2018 will build on this foundation.
Frontline Officers across Government and Community Agencies to be Better Equipped to Help Households in Need Holistically
3 We will equip frontline officers across Government and community agencies with basic knowledge on a range of help schemes, beyond their individual agencies' schemes. When individuals or families in need approach a public agency or community organisation to seek help for a specific need, beyond receiving advice on the agency's own assistance schemes, they will be able to get information on and be referred to other social assistance schemes and services that support their needs.
4 For example, at the SSOs, ComCare clients will be able to access schemes and services for persons with disabilities, such as those offered by the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC) and SG Enable, from the third quarter of this year.
5 We will also work with frontline officers or case managers at the Housing & Development Board (HDB), the People's Association Community Clubs, medical social workers, school counsellors, and other agencies which are common touch points for residents in need, so that they too can provide basic information and referrals to help schemes beyond those of their own organisations.
6 MSF, the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Family Service Centres (FSCs) have been progressively rolling out a referral protocol, so that schools will know when and how to refer students in need and their families to the SSOs or FSCs to get the help that these families need. We will complete the roll-out of this referral protocol to all schools by the end of this year.
Easier for Households in Need to Apply for Multiple Help Schemes and Services
7 We will make it easier for individuals and families in need to apply for social assistance schemes and services from different agencies. By sharing information and assessments across agencies, we seek to minimise the need for individuals and families to submit the same documents, repeat explaining their circumstances, and fill in multiple application forms asking for similar information.
8 Today, SSOs have established arrangements with other agencies for ComCare recipients to also receive assistance with their medical expenses, or be considered for assistance such as a reduction in rental rates, without them needing to be assessed again by the other agencies. We will continue to pursue more of such arrangements.
9 For example, from the second half of this year, students from families receiving ComCare assistance who are attending the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will also be assessed for their eligibility to receive a Community Development Council/ Citizens' Consultative Committee (CDC/CCC) Bursary or MOE Bursary, without having to apply separately for such financial assistance. MSF and MOE will work to progressively extend this initiative to students in the mainstream schools, polytechnics and the autonomous universities. Ms Low Khah Gek, Chief Executive Officer of the ITE, said, "With this initiative, our students in financial need will be better able to receive the financial support they need to pursue their education and achieve their aspirations."
10 We will also make it easier for mothers or single parents who are working or seeking work and receiving ComCare assistance to access financial support for child care. When they enrol their child into a child care centre, we will assess their eligibility to receive additional child care subsidies and a start-up grant, as well as additional financial assistance if needed, without requiring them to submit separate applications for these. This will help alleviate one worry so that they can focus on getting or sustaining their employment. We will roll this out later this year starting with SSOs and child care centres in a few HDB towns.
Stronger Cross-Agency Coordination to Support Individuals and Families in Need towards Self-Reliance
11 We will continue to strengthen cross-agency coordination so that individuals and families in need can benefit from more holistic and coordinated assistance that supports them towards self-reliance. In complex cases where multiple needs are present with different agencies involved, the case lead may not be obvious. SSOs will facilitate the assignment of a case lead, who will coordinate among government agencies and Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) to work on a common action plan for the client and exercise flexibility appropriately, to help the client get back on his or her feet.
Integrated Service Delivery through Video-Conferencing and Co-Location of Services
12 To bring about greater convenience to clients who need to access different services and facilitate collaboration across agencies, MSF is also exploring more integrated service delivery models at our SSOs.
13 We will explore the use of video-conferencing for ComCare applicants to communicate with officers from other agencies. From the fourth quarter of this year, SSO at Geylang Serai will pilot video-conferencing links with HDB, SG Enable, and SNTC. ComCare applicants who need to have discussions or consultations with customer service or case officers from these other agencies will be able to do so from the SSO. In this way, they will be able to have their queries addressed when they are at the SSO and will not need to visit the HDB Branch Office, SG Enable at Lengkok Bahru, or SNTC at Tiong Bahru separately to get needed information on schemes relevant to them. Chief Executive of SG Enable, Ms Ku Geok Boon, said, "We hope that bringing our services closer to the community through the Social Service Offices will allow those who need help to access help more easily."
14 Where opportune, we will also co-locate complementary services with the SSOs, such as family services, employment assistance and the Silver Generation Office (SGO). For example, SGO officers serving Taman Jurong and Jurong Spring have started operating at SSO at Taman Jurong. We are also working with the Ministry of Health (MOH) to co-locate SGO with the SSO at Geylang Serai, from the second half of this year. This arrangement will support closer collaboration between the SSO and SGO officers in supporting clients with multiple and complex needs, and planning for programmes and services
Enabling and Supporting Community Efforts towards Better Social Service Outcomes
15 The community plays an important role to complement government agencies in service delivery. As part of the SG Cares movement, SSOs will step up efforts to bring together community partners to forge a common picture of local social service needs, and facilitate collaboration and partnerships to more effectively harness and channel community resources towards those needs. This will ensure that community efforts and Government efforts complement each other, and collective resources are optimised, to contribute towards better social service outcomes and a caring Singapore.
16 A series of local community networking sessions involving partners such as VWOs, schools, government agencies and grassroots organisations will be organised by the SSOs over the coming year, and will be a regular feature on an ongoing basis. Mayor of Central Singapore District and Grassroots Adviser to Kampong Glam Division in Jalan Besar GRC, Ms Denise Phua, said, "The SSOs play an important role in bringing together and coordinating efforts among stakeholders. Moving forward, we hope to better tap the passion and skills of volunteers, to help meet local needs, and build a more cohesive and caring society."
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. What has MSF done over the past years to improve social service delivery on the ground through the SSOs?
Today, MSF's network of 24 SSOs provide ComCare assistance to individuals and families in financial need and coordinate the delivery and planning of social assistance and services within HDB towns. Since the establishment of the first SSO in 2013, we have piloted various service delivery models by co-locating complementary services, such as family services and employment assistance at selected SSOs, so that our clients receive more coordinated services and assistance during their visits. MSF will continue to build on what we have today to further strengthen the planning and delivery of social assistance and services.
2. Are there plans to set up more SSOs?
There are no immediate plans to set up more SSOs.
3. Where can the community come in to support?
The community plays an important role in supporting individuals and families, especially in times of difficulty, and community efforts complement government agencies in bridging the last mile of service delivery. Community organisations or interested individuals can download the SG Cares app to find out more details of volunteering projects available in the community, and sign up for the opportunities.