1. To better support low-income and vulnerable families, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will increase the assistance provided by ComCare schemes. MSF will also strengthen social service delivery in partnership with government agencies and community organisations, so as to provide more Comprehensive, Convenient and Coordinated support for these families.
Increase in ComCare Assistance
2. MSF will raise the cash assistance rates for families receiving ComCare assistance from 1 July 2019. A one-person household on ComCare Long-Term Assistance will receive $600 per month, an increase from the current rate of $500 per month. Larger households will receive higher amounts - for instance, a four-person household will get $1,750 a month, up from the current $1,450 a month. The increase in LTA cash assistance rates will benefit some 4,000 households, the majority of whom are elderly with little or no family support. The cash assistance is part of a package of support for LTA households, which includes assistance with medical expenses and other needs. Details of the enhancements can be found in Annex A.
3. Beneficiaries of the ComCare Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance (SMTA) can also expect an increase in their cash assistance if their assistance is renewed after July 2019 and their household circumstances remain unchanged, or if they need more help. The actual quantum of assistance provided will vary based on their needs and incomes. These enhancements are part of MSF's regular review of the ComCare schemes in consultation with our stakeholders who work closely with low-income families.
Comprehensive and Targeted Support for the Low-Income and Vulnerable
4. In July 2018, MSF sketched out plans to work with MND to set up social service hubs at or near rental flats. This allows us to provide more targeted support for families, especially those with children, staying in rental flats. We have been consulting community stakeholders, including the Family Service Centres (FSCs) and the Grassroots Organisations, over the past months. They have expressed strong support for these plans, and we will launch the Community Link (ComLink) initiative this year, starting with four sites at Jalan Kukoh, Marsiling, Kembangan-Chai Chee, and Boon Lay. ComLink is expected to benefit around 1,000 families living in these four estates.
5. ComLink will provide proactive, collaborative and community-driven support to empower these families to harness their strengths and resources to improve their circumstances and achieve sustained stability. There will be programme spaces at each site for government, corporate and community partners, as well as residents themselves, to run customised programmes or deliver services to meet the needs of that community. These could include early childhood development programmes, parenting programmes, or night-time student care or childcare if such needs are identified in the community. Local implementation workgroups for each of the four sites, led by our SSOs and involving the grassroots, other community partners and government agencies, will be set up by the end of this month. The workgroups will engage the families and the local community to better understand their aspirations and needs, plan for services at the programme spaces, and coordinate complex cases.
6. ComLink will allow the community, businesses and residents to come together and pool resources to help those at risk or in need, in the spirit of SG Cares, to make a meaningful difference in the lives of fellow Singaporeans. Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Adviser to Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC Grassroots Organisations (Marsiling), said, "This is a much needed initiative to provide more targeted support to vulnerable families living in rental flats. My grassroots team and I are looking forward to working with the partners and residents, to bring about tangible improvements to our families' lives."
More Convenient for Vulnerable Households to Receive Help
7. Vulnerable individuals and families sometimes face complex challenges and require the support of multiple government agencies and community organisations to help them regain stability. MSF has been working with our partners to transform our social services, integrate service delivery and strengthen last-mile support. The objective is to ensure that these families receive prompt and holistic support.
8. We have worked out information- and data-sharing arrangements across agencies to reduce the administrative load on clients while ensuring that each agency has a holistic perspective of the family's circumstances. For example, ComCare SMTA clients who require additional help with their children's childcare fees will be assessed for childcare subsidy and financial assistance, without parents having to submit the same supporting documents or repeat their circumstances again. This will be rolled out in the second half of 2019. MSF and the Ministry of Education (MOE) have put in place similar arrangements to make it easier for students whose families are receiving ComCare assistance to also receive financial assistance from MOE for their education needs. Since August 2018, students from such families who are attending the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) have been concurrently assessed for financial assistance provided by MOE. This arrangement was implemented for students attending mainstream schools in October 2018, and MSF and MOE are working together to implement this for polytechnic students next. This is on top of existing arrangements with the Housing & Development Board (HDB) for assistance on rental fees, and the Ministry of Health (MOH) for assistance with medical expenses. We will continue to pursue such arrangements with more agencies.
9. MSF also seeks to ensure more integrated service delivery for vulnerable families. Some of our Social Service Offices (SSOs) are already co-located with complementary services such as employment assistance and family services. We are using technology to provide some of these services via video-conferencing links. Since December 2018, we have piloted video-conferencing with HDB, SG Enable and the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC) at our SSOs at Geylang Serai and Bedok. Clients can now have their queries relating to other agencies addressed at the SSOs without making additional trips to those agencies.
10. By end-2019, clients will be able to access financial, employment and housing services at all 24 SSOs, either through physical co-location of services or video-conferencing with agencies. SSO @ Taman Jurong, Kreta Ayer, Chua Chu Kang, Jalan Besar and Yishun will offer the full suite of services by June 2019. Through video-conferencing links with HDB, clients can check on the status of their rental flat application, enquire about monetisation options such as the Lease Buyback Scheme (LBS), or get information on the Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE), directly at the SSO. Clients can virtually link up with career coaches from Workforce Singapore (WSG) and NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) for employment assistance through video-conferencing.
11. We will also pilot video-conferencing links with the Legal Aid Bureau for legal advisory services by Q2 2019, at three of our SSOs - Boon Lay, Taman Jurong and Queenstown. Ms Lim Hui Min, Director of the Legal Aid Bureau, said, "The Legal Aid Bureau is very happy to collaborate with MSF in this initiative, so that low-income and vulnerable families can get legal advice more quickly and conveniently, at a location close to their homes."
Better Coordination and Link-Ups across Agencies
12. Providing more integrated support goes beyond systems, technology and data-sharing. It requires good coordination across agencies to deliver support around the client's or family's needs, and ensure no one falls through the cracks. To enable this, MSF has developed a set of case coordination guidelines, i.e. Guidelines for Case Master Action Planning (Case MAP), to guide agencies in supporting families with complex circumstances. The Guidelines will set out good practices and protocols to help agencies achieve a common understanding of the entire family's circumstances and needs, and align their interventions to bring about better and sustained outcomes for the family. The case coordination guidelines will be rolled out progressively to all towns across Singapore by end-2019.
13. Families with complex circumstances sometimes face issues beyond those that they are seeking help for. To ensure that they get needed information on and referrals to the relevant agencies' schemes and services, MSF has also been working with government and community agencies to train their frontline officers. By the end of 2019, at least 2,500 officers from People's Association (PA), HDB, WSG, NTUC's e2i, Singapore Police Force (SPF), Singapore Prison Service (SPS), and the Silver Generation Office (SGO)/Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) will be equipped to identify clients' needs more comprehensively and connect them to relevant help. We will expand this over time, to include more ground agencies such as Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs). This way, each frontline agency in the community could serve as a gateway for families with complex needs to other social services. Ms Nurul Diyanah Binte Anbar, Constituency Management Executive at Buona Vista Constituency Office, said, "When residents come to the Community Club to seek help, I am able to offer them assistance from PA as well as connect them to other relevant agencies like the SSO and AIC. By doing so, we hope to provide more holistic service to residents."
MINISTRY OF SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT