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Welcome remarks by Minister of State for Social and Family Development Ms Sun Xueling at the appreciation session for participants of pre-divorce support portal citizen engagement on 15 January 2021, 12.05pm

Type: Official Speeches: Sun Xueling

Topic(s): Children & Families

Good afternoon everyone and thank you for spending your lunchtime with us!

This may be the first time that we are meeting but I would like you to know that I have been paying close attention to your efforts and our combined efforts to put together the pre-divorce support portal, which I believe we all know and truly believe in, will be a great help to our residents, families and children. MSF and the Community Psychology Hub have consulted various social service professionals to develop content for the pre-divorce support portal. And they also looked at research and ground experience to guide us.

Your coming forward and sharing with us your feedback and experiences had helped us so much more to understand what individuals and families need when they are faced with marital difficulties. Many of you had signed up for multiple sessions. I know it hasn't been easy for you. You had to put in time, effort, you came and joined us after work, or you spent your precious weekend time with us. Before this event started formally, I was looking at the chat group and saw that people were exchanging messages about how now that the conversations have stopped temporarily, some of you miss each other's company. I think that also goes to show how much effort and time you have spent at this, and we really value your time and the friendships that have been forged in the process. Thank you very much.

For most of you, you had felt the content was on the right track. You had also given specific comments that delved into the impact on children, housing and finance. You reminded us to pay attention to marital counselling and saving marriages, even as couples who are contemplating divorce. You also share the importance of addressing the emotional needs of the parents, so that they can in turn, provide emotional support for their children. You highlighted the need to signpost parents to resources and professional help if their children need them. There were good suggestions on the possible names for the pre-divorce support portal. We are still carefully reviewing this.

You had also suggested concrete ways to better present the information on the portal, by using graphics, real-life stories, videos and case studies. These are all very important suggestions because we have to make the content relatable. We must make them meaningful for people to truly understand them. We are also grateful to those of you who have generously stepped forward and offered your own stories to be featured on the portal. Some of you even helped to draw infographics. I’ve seen some of them, and put up one on my Facebook post. Thank you so much. It requires creativity and I think it stems from your personal experience, and that's why it comes so naturally to you and that's what we need. Real life experiences that will really make the information on the portal relatable to our audience.

Some of you have shared how the pre-divorce stage was painful and overwhelmingly emotional, and that additional support is often needed. If you know of friends, anyone who needs support, our pilot programme with the Community Psychology Hub provides free online counseling via live chat or email on marital divorce or parenting issues. Through such medium, it offers privacy and confidentiality. If you know friends or family members who need it, please offer these resources to them. More than 1,000 individuals have benefited from this service since it began in April 2020, and this online counseling service will also be made available on our portal.

MSF has partnered with the community to put in place many programmes and initiatives to strengthen marriages, support families at various life stages, and also to enhance child outcomes. We will continue to monitor, review, and we always aim to try to do better.

We have also worked with the social service agencies to set up the divorce support specialist agencies or DSSAs, to help parents in co-parenting post-divorce, and to support children in the event of a divorce. As we continue to improve the ecosystem, I hope that our open conversations with you and other citizens will continue. Many of you have also offered to continue to walk this journey with us. I thank you in advance.

This portal holds much promise. It is the fruit of our combined labour, and it would not have been possible for us to reach this stage without your support and your contributions.

Once again, I thank you for your time, your efforts and your heart that you've put into this. Have a great afternoon ahead, and I hope you all enjoy your lunch.