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Speech by Minister Desmond Lee at SG Cares Community Network Session at Bukit Batok, Bukit Panjang & Choa Chu Kang

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

Topic(s): Financial Assistance & Social Support

1. Good afternoon partners, volunteers and friends. Welcome to today’s SG Cares Community Network Session. Thank you for your active support for ComLink, in Bukit Batok, Bukit Panjang and Choa Chu Kang. Your partnership has enabled us to better support families with children living in rental housing. Thank you for your support in working closely with us.

Delivering 3C support

2. Strong and supportive families are the bedrock of resilient societies and are at the heart of our social compact. When we are faced with challenges, our families are usually the first people we turn to for care and support, for a shoulder to cry on, for advice. Families mould our value system and teach us how to relate to others. Families are the school of life. A safe harbour. And so we need to continue to empower our families, to remain resilient in the face of adversity.

3. In fact, a fortnight ago, MSF launched “A Singapore Made For Families 2025” plan, to foster an even more family-friendly Singapore to bring everyone together.

4. For some, life has dealt them a different hand. Some families, however, are more vulnerable and need more support than others. And our agencies provide a wide range of social services to meet their needs, challenges they face, to press forward. For example

a. For families and individuals who do not have other housing options, HDB provides public rental flats at heavily subsidised rates. They serve as a social safety net. They offer shelter, stability, and a safe space for them.
Lower-income households can benefit from a range of programmes such as Workfare, ComCare and the Progressive Wage Model.

b. They can enrol their children in KidStart, for better upstream support, in order to have a good start in life.

5. Some families may face a complex web of interlocking challenges, which cannot be addressed piecemeal. The reality is this – all of us have unique expertise. It is just natural for us to deep-dive and do the things we believe in – providing support for children, providing support for seniors. It is natural, it’s systematic; it is how society organises itself.

6. This is where ComLink comes in. We put families at the heart, to provide help more holistically, in a way that does not overwhelm families. We organise support around their needs and challenges and enable them to tap on community resources more easily, in a comprehensive, convenient and coordinated manner. At the same time, we help them build on their own strengths and resources, an asset-based approach. We also want to go further upstream – to build resilience but also to provide support to our families once there is an early indication that they are facing difficulties. Building capabilities, resilience, providing them with empowerment, but also tackling problems early.

7. This approach can make a difference to families in need. I would like to give an example of Mr Shah and Mdm Lina’s family, who lives in Bukit Batok.

a. They have two young children.

b. Mr Shah unfortunately was involved in an accident at work and they needed some financial support to tide them through as a breadwinner.

8. Our ComLink befrienders visited the family in April 2022 during the implementation of ComLink in Bukit Batok. Our ComLink befrienders spent time building rapport and trust with the family. They didn’t want to build a transactional touch point, but to see the family as equals.

a. They worked with SSO@Bukit Batok to provide ComCare financial assistance the moment the breadwinner suffered injuries.
b. They helped arrange for the children to attend KidSTART playgroup sessions.
c. The ComLink befrienders also worked with both SSO and KidSTART teams, to encourage the parents to enrol their children in preschool, as this would allow Mdm Lina to work while the children were in school.
The family registered both children for childcare in August 2022. They will be starting their first day in preschool in December 2022. This will give them a good foundation, build up skills and foundations and give them a good, early start in life.

9. For families like Mr Shah and Mdm Lina who require support on many fronts, ComLink works with them closely, advising them on the options available and linking them up with the agencies who can address these specific needs. This case management approach that centres collectively around the family, also means that the officer-in-charge has a good overview of the family’s circumstances and can keep track of their progress. This is one of the many real-life stories that illustrates the potential of ComLink to support and build resilient families. We are able to achieve this because of your active support, the trust in moving together, and the strong network of community partnerships that we have built up over the years.

10. As of October 2022, we have reached out to about 11,000 families as part of ComLink to understand their aspirations, needs and worries. I’d like to thank everyone here for contributing to ComLink. Let us continue to work hard to enable more families to craft their own story, on their own terms with all our support.

ComLink Rental Scheme

11. Today’s session is just one of many platforms where hopefully, all of us can use as an opportunity to build our own set of relationships with each other – and as the organisations we represent. We are all serving the same families. We are all coming in with our own specialisations, we all have likely helped one member of the family today. We do so in concert, in an integrated manner to provide comprehensive, convenient and coordinated support. Importantly, it is about building trust, building a relationship early. We as an organisation must do even better, because on our own we cannot be enough. We are now starting to see how this much more integrated approach to social support is beginning to make an impact to the lives of our families that we serve, and we want to expand this web of support to more families. MSF and MND have come together, and we are launching the ComLink Rental Scheme this month, which integrates rental housing assistance with holistic ComLink support.

12. With this new scheme, all eligible rental flat families with children will be offered integrated social support, to help them achieve stability, and then self-reliance and ultimately social mobility.

a. Once an eligible family submits an application for a rental flat to HDB, the family will automatically be included within ComLink.

b. A ComLink officer will proactively contact the family to understand their situation and share with them the different ways in which ComLink will support them, even before they move into their rental flats.

c. The officer will link them up with relevant assistance, if the family has immediate needs.

13. The ComLink officer will continue to journey with the family and regularly check in on how they are doing. He will also coordinate support from SSOs and other community partners, to provide greater assurance for the family in achieving their goals.

14. In essence, for families with children who are applying for our HDB rental programme, housing support will come integrated with more holistic social, health and community-based support. The new ComLink Rental scheme strengthens our efforts to support families under ComLink, and takes our work one step further. I seek all your support, all our commitment, all our heart, all our soul, to make this work


15. There is no ready-made blueprint for the Singapore of tomorrow. Let’s also take this chance to refresh our social compact. It is up to us to chart a new way forward that belongs to all of us. And I want to thank all of you for walking with us on this journey and helping to create possibilities by working on these issues together.

16. I invite all of you here today to share your views on how we can strengthen our ecosystem of support for families in need, as we refresh this social compact with Forward Singapore.

17. With that, let’s all get started. I wish everyone a meaningful and fruitful discussion, and lots of relationship building ahead. Thank you.