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MSF Committee of Supply 2024: Building a Family-friendly Society Where All Are Empowered

Type: Fact Sheets

Topic(s): Committee of Supply, Children & Families, Financial Assistance & Social Support, MSFCare Volunteers, Social Service Agencies & Partners, Social Service Professionals


The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is committed to building a family-friendly society where all families, especially lower-income families, are empowered to fulfill their aspirations and achieve stability, self-reliance and social mobility. With the collective efforts of everyone in society, we will build a Singapore Made for Families through three key shifts.

Strengthening families

1.          To build strong and resilient families, we need to galvanise broader societal support for families.

Expansion of Families for Life @ Community

2.          Following positive feedback from the initial roll-out, the Families for Life (FFL) @ Community will expand its presence from 9 to 18[1] towns by end 2024. Families in these towns can learn marriage and parenting skills through FFL programmes held nearer to their homes. Families can also find community support for their marriage and parenting journey[2], and benefit from local family-bonding activities. The roll-out to all 24 towns will be completed by 2025[3].

3.          MSF is also broadening support for families across different life stages. For example, the Our Marriage Journey Quiz has been introduced as a relationship health check tool for couples to gain insights into their relationship dynamics. Additionally, MSF will partner all five Anchor Operator preschools to improve the accessibility of FFL parenting programmes for parents of preschoolers. The range of FFL resources will also be expanded to better support the parenting needs of families with teenagers.

National Family Festival

4.          The National Family Week will be expanded to a month-long National Family Festival to bring together individuals, corporates and community partners to celebrate the importance of family and encourage all to prioritise time for families. The Festival will take place from 25 May to 30 June 2024. With the strong support of FFL’s partners, members of public of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy a wide range of activities and programmes across three pillars:

a.         At Home, individuals can take active steps to strengthen their relationships. For example, individuals can access online FFL resources or tools or attend marriage or parenting-related talks or programmes.

b.         Through Play, families spend meaningful time together and create memories as they bond. During the Festival, families can look forward to events, special deals and a variety of activities.

c.         At Work, employers can lead the way by fostering family-friendly environments. For example, employers can work with FFL to organise family-themed talks (e.g. on parenting tips) or activities for their employees.

Moving beyond assistance to empowerment

5.          Lower-income families often face complex and interlocking challenges. Beyond providing social assistance, the Government will partner them and supplement their efforts to achieve stability, self-reliance and eventually, social mobility.

Support for Preschoolers from Lower-income Families

6.          MSF and ECDA will strengthen support for children from lower-income families by facilitating their access to affordable and quality preschool education and equipping their parents to better support their development. This will give these children a strong start and improve their school readiness and future educational outcomes.

7.          The preschool enrolment rate of children aged 3 to 4 years old from lower-income families is around 78%, about 10 percentage points lower than the national average. From the third quarter of 2024, the Preschool Outreach Programme will be expanded to more children from lower-income families, to encourage and facilitate their enrolment in preschool by age 3. We aim to reach over 2,000 children every year.

8.          As announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong at Budget 2024, by the end of 2024, all lower-income families with a gross monthly household income of $6,000 and below will qualify for the maximum amount of childcare subsidies for their income tier. Up to 17,000 additional children could benefit from this move.

9.          From the second quarter of 2024, ECDA will provide additional resources to selected Anchor Operator (AOP) preschools so they can strengthen attendance and learning support for children from lower-income families. For example, the preschools will monitor children’s attendance and work with parents to address their challenges in sending their child to preschool regularly. Preschools will also provide more targeted learning support to children, who may need more help in areas like literacy, numeracy or social emotional development. Close to 2,000 children in AOPs are expected to benefit from this additional resourcing over the next three years.

10.         MOE has also introduced similar enhancements in MOE Kindergartens (MKs) to strengthen their curriculum and professional development, and improve their systems, processes and programmes, to better address the attendance and learning needs of children from lower-income families.

11.         MSF will also step up efforts to equip lower-income families with the skills needed for better child and parental outcomes. Together with community partners, MSF will increase outreach and engagements with parents, customise the programme delivery and materials for FFL parenting programmes to better meet their needs, and provide extra support to facilitate their attendance in FFL programmes. We will start by reaching out to parents with children enrolled in Anchor Operator preschools and aim to reach 50% of lower-income families in these preschools by 2027.

Enhancements to ComLink+

12.         ComLink+ is a shift from episodic assistance for basic subsistence, to longer-term, family-centric support. It seeks to better empower lower-income families and accelerate their progress towards achieving stability, self-reliance, and social mobility.

13.         MSF announced two key enhancements under ComLink+ last year. The first is the introduction of dedicated family coaches, who will coach, motivate, and journey with families over the longer term. Family coaches will also act as the lead coordinator across multiple programmes, such as KidSTART, UPLIFT Community Network and Project DIAN@M3. As at end-2023, around 97% of the 10,000 families willing to work with MSF were receiving family coach support.

14.         The second enhancement is the introduction of ComLink+ Progress Packages, which provide additional financial top-ups to recognise and supplement families’ efforts as they take active steps towards pursuing longer-term aspirations.

15.         More individuals are encouraged to come forward as volunteer befrienders to support family coaches to engage ComLink+ families. We have around 1,600 volunteer befrienders (comprising university students, corporate and Public Service volunteers and individuals), a two-fold increase from last year.

Review of Family Services Landscape

16.         Social work support for vulnerable individuals and families with social and emotional issues are provided by the 47 Family Service Centres island-wide.

17.         However, there are currently more than 10 different MSF-funded programmes run by around 30 Social Service Agencies (SSAs), providing separate services supporting clients with different needs, including persons facing domestic violence, vulnerable families with social and emotional issues, at-risk youths, and those facing challenges in their marriages or family relationships. As some individuals and families have multiple and complex needs, they may be supported by different SSAs today. This can be inconvenient and challenging for them today.

18.         MSF will be consulting the social service sector on how to deliver better outcomes for families and ensure that families do not need to interface with multiple agencies where possible. Our vision is for families to have a single touchpoint, similar to a relationship manager for the entire family, who can bring together the support needed to address the needs of the family holistically. We will therefore establish a review committee comprising representatives from the Ministry and sector partners to reconceptualise our family services to be even more comprehensive, convenient and coordinated.

Building a strong social service ecosystem

Improve Social Service Agencies’ Adherence to Sector Salary Guidelines

19.         There is a strong need to attract and retain talent in the sector to support the increasing demand for social services. MSF and NCSS work closely with our partners to roll out a suite of initiatives to attract and retain talent. Competitive salaries are critical to complement these efforts. MSF and NCSS regularly review the Social Service Sector Salary Guidelines to ensure they are competitive with comparable roles in other sectors. Funding by MSF and NCSS is also increased correspondingly to ensure SSAs’ staff under MSF-funded programmes can be paid salaries commensurate with their contributions.

20.         Around 80% of employees in the social service sector were paid according to the sector salary guidelines in 2022. Over the next three years, MSF and NCSS will work closely with MSF-funded SSAs to have their employees’ salaries adhere to the guidelines. MSF and NCSS will provide targeted consultancy support for SSAs which require more assistance to adopt the guidelines.

Transformation Sustainability Scheme under the Community Capability Trust fund

21.         The Transformation Sustainability Scheme under the Community Capability Trust provides eligible SSAs with up to $200,000 or 80% of total projected costs (whichever is lower) over three years to strengthen internal capabilities, such as People Practice, Volunteer Management, and Innovation & Digitalisation. All NCSS members and MSF-funded SSAs can apply for this scheme.

Year of Celebrating Volunteers

22.         Volunteers play a critical role in the social service sector. MSF has dedicated 2024 as the Year of Celebrating Volunteers.

23.         It is important to promote a stronger giving culture as we strengthen our social compact. Many individuals and corporates do good work. The impact will be amplified when volunteerism is more structured, and we move beyond ad hoc efforts to sustained initiatives. Beyond creating impact on those they serve, volunteers have also gained personally from the experience.

24.         To facilitate this for the social service sector, NCSS will enhance the capabilities of Volunteer Managers in SSAs.

Harnessing the Generosity of Singaporeans

25.         There is a need to move beyond traditional modes of giving as we anticipate social needs to become more complex while facing the challenge of limited resources. We also recognise that corporates have evolved in their giving practices. NCSS, together with partners in the ecosystem, is developing the Sustainable Philanthropy Framework. This is to help corporates deepen their giving, and better link philanthropic efforts in donations, volunteering and inclusive practices to their business outcomes and value creation.‚Äč In addition to engaging leaders in various organisations from diverse sectors to better shape the framework and playbook, NCSS will consult the wider business community in March 2024, before the launch of the Framework later in the year.

26.         Community Chest (ComChest) under NCSS will also facilitate and amplify Singaporeans’ contributions through the SHARE As One (SAO) Grant and Change for Charity (CfC) initiatives.

a.         SAO Grant: Extension of 1:1 Government matching of new and incremental donations to SHARE for another two years till FY25.

i.         SHARE, a regular giving programme, is an important and steady source of funds for the social service sector, comprising an average of $16mil/year, or about 25% of overall funds raised by ComChest, from FY18 to FY22.

ii.        100% of donations through SHARE go towards serving groups like children with special needs and youth-at-risk, adults with disabilities, persons with mental health conditions and seniors and families in need of support.

iii.        The Government provides dollar-for-dollar matching of any additional SHARE donations over and above donation levels of the preceding year. Companies can claim 50% of the matching funds (up to a cap of $10,000 per year) for Corporate Service Responsibility (CSR) activities, and/or enhance their CSR capabilities within the business. SSAs can also apply to use the matching funds to organise volunteer activities and strengthen their volunteer management capabilities.

b.         CfC: Extension of Government matching for donations through CfC, till FY27. Extension of Enabler Grant till FY26 to encourage more corporates to come on board CfC by supporting technological enhancements or production of marketing materials.

i.         Change for Charity was introduced in 2021 to encourage corporates to weave a giving mechanism into their business models and rally their customers to give. At present, there are about 200 businesses onboard CfC.

ii.        100% of funds raised goes towards supporting over 200 critical programmes supported by ComChest.

iii.         The Government will provide a matching donation of $0.50 for every dollar donated through CfC, and another $0.50 to every dollar if businesses match their customer’s contribution. The government will match a maximum of $25,000 for customer donations, and up to another $25,000 if businesses match their customer’s donation.

iv.        Businesses may also apply for a one-off Enabler Grant of 50% of the cost incurred for incorporating giving opportunities on their payment platforms. This is capped at $10,000 per business.

 

Glossary of Terms

1 Families for Life @ Community (FFL@Community) was first piloted in 2021 in Choa Chu Kang and Yishun, and subsequently rolled out to Tampines, Punggol, Pasir Ris, Sembawang, Woodlands, Bukit Panjang, and Bukit Batok in 2023. In 2023, close to 77,000 participants benefitted from FFL@Community marriage and parenting programmes, as well as community events, enhancing their marital and parenting skills and knowledge.

 

2 This includes marriage mentoring by community volunteers and locale-based parent peer support groups.

 

3 From 2025 onwards, about 4,000 couples and 20,000 parents are expected to benefit from Families for Life marriage and parenting programmes annually.

 

4 These include (i) working with Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) to expand Pre-Employment Training pipelines, (ii) expanding Continuing Education Training pipelines targeting mid-career entrants, and (iii) supporting SSAs to improve attractiveness of roles through job redesign.

 

5 Source: MSF Manpower and Salary Survey FY2021. Data is as at March 2022

 

6 The Community Capability Trust (CCT) is a Charitable Trust set up to strengthen SSAs’ capabilities and capacity, so that they can deliver better services to their users.