20 November 2018
Ms Rahayu Mahzam
MP for Jurong GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) whether there are structural gaps in the existing support structures for low-income and vulnerable families in Singapore and, if so, what are these gaps; and (b) what are the specific opportunities for the community to assist and augment the existing support structures to close these gaps.
1. The Government is committed to build a fair, inclusive, and caring society, where all Singaporeans have opportunities to do well and progress.
2. In the past decade, outcomes for the low-income and vulnerable families have improved in various aspects such as education, employment, income, housing, and healthcare. Nonetheless, our system is not perfect and the Government will continue to work with the community, to find ways to do better.
3. First, as the economy matures, we recognise that one’s family resources or disadvantages may be passed on and amplified in the next generation, which will affect social mobility. Hence, the Government will continue to invest even earlier in our children’s educational journey, especially for those from disadvantaged families through initiatives such as the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA)’s KidSTART pilot. ECDA will continue to increase the number of accessible, affordable, and quality preschool places, and partner the community to reach out to children from low-income families who are not attending preschool, to better understand their reasons for non-participation and facilitate enrolment. The community plays an important role to complement the Government’s efforts. For example, to support low-income families where parents are working at night, community initiatives such as CareNights@Morning Star by Temasek Foundation Cares provide free night care for their children.
4. Second, with a volatile global environment and the emergence of new technologies, the sense of economic insecurity among Singaporeans may increase. The Workfare Income Supplement Scheme helps lower-wage workers raise their incomes and encourages them to stay employed by providing CPF top-ups and cash supplements. The Adapt and Grow initiative helps unemployed and at-risk workers to take up new jobs as quickly as possible. SkillsFuture provides Singaporeans with training opportunities for lifelong learning and reskilling, so as to equip them with industry-relevant skills and broaden the opportunities that they can access throughout life. The Government will also continue to support the training and up-skilling of lower-wage workers through Workfare Training Support, to achieve sustainable productivity and wage growth.
5. Third, low-income and vulnerable families often have complex needs and require coordinated help from multiple agencies. MSF will work with other government and community agencies to enhance our social service delivery and strengthen our social service network of support. For example, we are progressively equipping frontline officers with knowledge of different help schemes and services, so that they can help families access schemes and services to meet their needs holistically. We are also sharing information and assessments across agencies to reduce the need for households in need to submit multiple applications. We will also facilitate the appointment of a lead agency to coordinate support for complex cases, to ensure that agencies’ interventions work in tandem with one another, to help families towards longer-term stability.
6. To strengthen support for vulnerable families living in rental housing, MSF and the Ministry of National Development will bring together community partners, to provide more targeted support to rental families, and work with them on a joint plan of action. We will set up white spaces at or near rental clusters, where volunteers, civic organisations, and corporates can establish and run customised services and programmes.
7. To enable and support community efforts, MSF and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth have been gathering community partners through SG Cares Community Network sessions, to facilitate cross-agency conversations and collaborations among community partners so that they can better support areas of need in the respective towns. With a common picture of the community’s needs and assets, community partners can pool their resources more effectively to co-create customised local programmes and services. The Ministry of Health will also step up support for low-income and vulnerable seniors through Community Networks for Seniors, bringing together government agencies, community partners, and volunteers to promote active ageing and provide health and social care services.
8. Supporting our low-income and vulnerable families requires a whole-of-society approach. We invite everyone from all sectors to join us in this collective effort.