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Opening Address by Minister Desmond Lee at NUS Centre for Social Development Asia (CSDA) Conference

Type: Official Speeches (All), Official Speeches: Desmond Lee

Topic(s): Social Service Agencies & Partners, Social Service Agencies & Partners, Social Service Professionals


His Excellency the British High Commissioner to Singapore Mr Scott Wightman

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

1. Good morning. Thank you for your invitation.I’m glad to see people from varied backgrounds – academics, accountants, public officers, leaders of social service agencies – coming together to share with and learn from one other, as we seek to do good and help others.

Transforming for the future

2. In the few minutes that I have, I would like to share two thoughts. These came to mind as I considered your publications, and where they may lead us.

3. The first is ‘the future’. This is the subtext in your publication, “Doing Good in Singapore” – how we can adapt to the future, and properly resource for it. Our society is changing. An aging population, smaller family units, risk of greater social stratification, the impact of technology on job security, lifestyles, and personal relationships.These are quite well know As we look to the future, however, we see several drivers that may go one way or another. These include

i. The strength of families and adequacy of family support (willingness and ability for family members to support each other);

ii. The strength of the community – how cohesive we will be as a society and how willing we are to help each other, and whether we will be more self-centred or others-centred.

4. What kind of Singapore do we want for ourselves and our future generations? How do we improve the system and policies that we have? How can the community help individuals and families who need a hand?

5. We have started a major effort to transform how we plan and deliver assistance and provide social services. We have many social service agencies on the ground. They have unique beginnings, and their own areas of focus. For example, those who specialise in children, youth-at-risk, a particular disability, the elderly, and so on. The challenge for us will be to work even better together, and collaborate even more, to help individuals and families in difficulty, and often beset with complex issues.

6. What we are aiming to achieve is 3 ‘Cs’ – providing help that is Comprehensive, Convenient and Coordinated. Let me cover some of the initiatives that we have embarked on, as we work towards this.

7. First, MSF, together with the Ministry of National Development, will be launching Community Link, or ComLink for short. We are starting with four sites near families staying in rental flats – Jalan Kukoh, Marsiling, Kembangan-Chai Chee and Boon Lay. We will provide dedicated programme spaces, for community partners to cater to their needs. This is not a new organisation, but a new platform to bring together and connect many existing ones. So that our assistance can more comprehensively help families and individuals.

8. Second, we are improving information- and data-sharing between agencies, so that clients do not need to submit multiple documents, or repeat their circumstances unnecessarily. We are also working on co-locating more services physically, and also via video-conferencing links, so that clients can talk to multiple agencies at one go, and colleagues from different agencies can work together more effectively.

9. Third, MSF has developed a set of case coordination guidelines for Case Master Action Planning, or Case MAP for short. This will guide agencies to understand and support families with complex circumstances, with cross-cutting areas of need.

The guidelines will help frontline agencies identify who takes the lead, and provide clarity on the roles of these lead agencies and other supporting agencies involved in the management of complex cases. We are also training our colleagues from frontline government and social service agencies, so that they have better information on the range of schemes that we collectively provide, and can make referrals more accurately.

10. We are transforming the way that we deliver social services to achieve these three ‘Cs’. So that those who need help do not “fall through the cracks” or have trouble “navigating the system”. So that those in challenging circumstances can stand on their own feet again and maximise their potential.

11. The second thought that came to mind when I saw your publications was the need for strong leadership and capability development. Your publication, “Accounting and Finance Handbooks for Charities”, dives into accounting practices, such as cash flow, reserves, investments, in detail. Part Two of “Doing Good in Singapore” touches also on other areas, such as leadership and managing volunteers.

12. Dynamic and visionary leadership is important. Board members in our social service agencies play a critical role to steer the strategic direction, and ensure that your agencies remain effective and agile.

13. Leaders must also invest in our people – the core of any organisation. Our people should have the space and support to hone their skills. Continuous professional training will sharpen our staff’s ability to safeguard our clients’ welfare, and manage complex challenges effectively.Admin staff also play an important role – to ensure that accounting and other administrative work effectively support front-line services. To this end, MSF launched the Skills Framework for Social Services in January. It lays out the career pathways, the knowledge and skills required for key professions. We are also setting up the Social Service SkillsFuture Tripartite Taskforce, to drive, coordinate and implement tripartite collaborations for manpower development initiatives in the social service sector. The taskforce will also provide advice on curriculum, training pathways and professional practice to enhance capabilities and effectiveness of manpower in the social service sector.Foundations for the future

14. By transforming and resourcing for the future, we are laying the foundations for our social sector to thrive, and meet the evolving needs of our society. I am glad to witness the launch of these publications.I hope that they will go a long way to help the sector build management and governance capabilities. I congratulate and thank you for your contribution.​