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Opening Remarks for Dialogue by Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for National Development and Minister-in-Charge of Social Services Integration, for Social Service Summit 2022 on 13 July 2022

Type: Official Speeches: Desmond Lee

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

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin,
Speaker of Parliament and Advisor to NCSS,

Ms Anita Fam,
President of NCSS,

My fellow panel members, Mr Alister Ong and Mr Martin Tan,

Friends and Partners from the
Public, Private and People Sectors


1. Good morning. And thank you, Alister, for sharing your truly inspiring story with all of us.

2. Minister Masagos is away currently, but I’d like to convey his greetings and congratulations to NCSS on your 30th anniversary

3. On behalf of Minister Masagos, and all of us at MSF, we’d like to thank NCSS board members, management and staff – past and present – as well as the social service community for working together with us, as we mark this significant milestone in the development of our sector.

Thank you for supporting our community all these years, including during the pandemic over the past 2 years.

The Social Compact and Social Service Ecosystem

4. The theme of this year’s summit, “Forging A Better Future For All”, captures our vision for the social service sector.

We want to build a more caring and inclusive society, where everyone has the opportunities to improve their lives, and no one is left behind.

The social service sector plays an important role in this Social Compact,complementing the work of Government to nurture strong families and resilient individuals.

5. Over the years, we have been building a stronger and more effective social service ecosystem, where the public, private and people sectors come together to support the more vulnerable in our community.

The Government has rolled out various programmes, such as Workfare, ComCare, KidStart and the Progressive Wage Model, to better support lower-income households.

More charities and social service agencies have stepped up to meet growing needs, especially during the pandemic.

And more corporates, donors, and volunteers from the community have come forward to give their time and resources generously.

Transforming Social Service Delivery

6. While these efforts have helped many families, there are still some who continue to struggle, because they face a complex web of interlocking challenges that complicate one another.

For instance, the breadwinner of a family may be unable to work due to health problems. The family could then fall into debt, and have difficultiespaying their housing rent or mortgage. This may in turn create stress and conflict at home, leading to the children struggling in school.

This family would then need support from multiple agencies – such as MOH for healthcare, SSO for financial help, HDB for housing assistance, FSC for family counselling, MOE for schooling support, and so on.

7. Most of our agencies and community partners tend to focus on a specific domain, like healthcare or education, or a specific group, like youths or seniors – and understandably so, to build deep specialist expertise.

8. But it means that often, no one agency or community partner can, by itself, help the family overcome all their different challenges.

So, each agency or community partner tries their best, but feels frustrated because they just can’t seem to help the family move out of their circumstances, once and for all.

From the family’s point of view, they must seek help from many sources, for their different issues, which can add to their burden.

9. That is why all of us in the social service ecosystem can and must work together to strengthen our social service delivery system.

We have to maintain a clear focus on the outcomes that make a difference.

We need to take a much more user- and family-centric approach, rather than an agency- or programme-centric one.

10. MSF’s flagship initiative for this is Community Link, or ComLink, which aims to uplift families with children living in public rental housing, and support them to achieve Stability, Self-reliance, and ultimately, Social Mobility.

Under ComLink, we reach out to the family proactively, through dedicated befrienders as a single touchpoint, to build rapport and trust, and understand the family’s needs and aspirations, hopes and fears.

We pool data across agencies, with the family’s consent, to get a holistic view of their situation.

And then we work with the family, and across agencies and community partners, to formulate a common action plan for each family, and align our efforts.

11. More broadly, we have been strengthening social-health-community integration, which is so important in supporting and uplifting disadvantaged families.

For example, we now have the Case Master Action Planning (Case MAP) framework, through which different agencies work together, along with the family, to develop a common case plan for the family, and align their efforts.

We have also set up new digital systems to improve collaboration and data flows among agencies.

o Case Connect allows agencies to coordinate on the common action plan for each family, refer cases to one another, and keep track ofupdates seamlessly

o While One Client View enables backend data sharing across agencies, with the family’s permission, so that families do not need to provide their information multiple times to different agencies, and agenciescan have a 360-degree view of their circumstances.

o Streamlined Assessment Protocols, or SAPs, allow ComCare families to easily access different forms of support, based on just one means-testing assessment – rather than being assessed separately for each scheme.

These systems provide the tools for us to improve coordination. But they only work if we continue to build trust and strong relationships among our different agencies and community partners.

That is why we set up the SG Cares Community Network in every HDB town, to bring community partners together to understand one another’s efforts, and build personal relationships which make collaboration a lot easier.

We have also started the MSFCare Network to bring volunteers and partners together and connect them to those in need.

12. These are the ways in which we’re improving social-health-community integration. In doing so, we enable donors and volunteers from the community to achieve much more impactful giving

Because with data and a good understanding of the ground circumstances, we can signpost and direct their contributions to the areas of greatest need

And by coordinating better across agencies, we ensure that our efforts are aligned, and we minimise wastage and duplication of resources.

13. That is how we deliver more comprehensive, coordinated, and convenient support to families – what we call the 3Cs.

Refreshing the Social Service Sector Strategic Thrusts (4ST)

14. We have been consulting our partners across the social service sector extensively, as we press forward on our journey of transformation.

Through our conversations, many social service agencies shared their hope that different parties could coordinate better, so that together, we cantackle complex issues and cases more effectively.

They also felt that we need to pay more attention to our resourcing strategies, to ensure that they are sustainable in the longer-term, while finding ways to remain relevant and to bring value to the individuals and families we serve.

15. With these in mind, we have refreshed our Social Service Sector Strategic Thrusts, or 4ST, which we will unveil later today.

16. The refreshed 4ST is a roadmap for the sector, by the sector. The 4ST, as Anita described, recommends how we might work better as a whole ecosystem to empower and uplift those in our midst who need more support

Our sector should seek to be effective and impactful to ensure we are well-positioned for the future.

We should move towards diversity and sustainability of resources, supported by more innovative approaches in philanthropy and deeper and closer partnerships between funders and their supported organisations.

In serving our service users, we should focus on being person/family-centred so we can meet their needs more holistically, and support theiraspirations as a family.

And ensure we focus on collaboration, to maximise impact, optimise resources and tackle challenges in the present and future.

17. I am happy to hear that NCSS will be embarking on initiatives to support the sector in driving the refreshed 4ST, such as the 4ST Partnership Fund to support innovative collaborations that strengthen social service delivery and empower the sector, and the upcoming Systems Leadership for Social Sector Programme to develop leaders to collectively drive transformation by providing systems leadership.

18. I hope that all of us here can tap on these resources, draw on the insights and strategies of the refreshed 4ST;

So that we can deliver higher quality, more innovative, integrated, coordinated and sustainable services.

19. Ultimately, we must continue to improve the lives of Singaporeans, aiming for concrete outcomes across health, education, employment and quality of life. I ask all of you to consider what are the key outcomes we hope to achieve together, and how we can strive to deliver greater impact and create ever-present opportunities for generations to come.

20. Let us join hands in nurturing and building lives together.


21. I look forward to our discussion. Thank you.