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Opening Remarks by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for Social and Family Development, Second Minister for Health, at SG Cares Community Network Session @ Jalan Besar and Toa Payoh at Civil Service Club (CSC) Tessensohn on 22 May 2023

Type: Official Speeches (All), Official Speeches: Masagos Zulkifli

Topic(s): Financial Assistance & Social Support, Social Service Agencies & Partners


Introduction

1. Good afternoon. I am glad to be here at the SG Cares Community Network Session. Thank you for being part of this network, supporting residents in need. 

Partnerships achieving impact

2. Today, we are among many partners who are deeply involved in the community, uplifting families in need in many areas. This includes the Vulnerable-in-Community network who reach out to vulnerable individuals, such as cardboard collectors and tissue sellers. And the PEERS network who befriend and support rough sleepers. In Jalan Besar and Toa Payoh, we also see many young people coming forward to volunteer, such as individuals from the Singapore Scout Association and students from SMU. 

3. Network sessions like today’s bring all of us together. So that we can meet new people, discuss ideas, and forge better partnerships. 

4. This is a unique feature of our society. Where Government, social service agencies, community partners, corporates, and volunteers come together and work in sync to help those in need. 

5. Indeed, working together is better than going at it alone. When we work together, we bring to the table our collective experience and abilities. We pool together the resources from our various channels. We synergise our efforts and cater better to the needs of those we serve. When we work together, our impact is amplified and the change we create is sustained.  

6. We see this in the case of rough sleepers. By joining hands across sectors - Government agencies, community partners, and volunteers - the PEERS network has been able to expand their reach. As they befriend these individuals one at a time and understand their needs, they are better able to refer these individuals to the relevant entities for support.  

7. Likewise, we are partnering each other better to help lower-income families. Many of whom face very complex and interlocking challenges. Rather than different entities trying to solve problems on their own, each with their own programme, we have been working together to understand the needs of the families first. Coordinating among ourselves to journey with them and extending the support that best addresses their needs. ComLink is an example of how we have been working together as a community to support the families with children living in rental flats. This is just the beginning of ComLink. I would like to thank the 85 partners and over 500 volunteers in Jalan Besar and Toa Payoh who have been contributing in various ways, to support the 1,600 ComLink families in this region. Let’s give them all your support. Through our combined efforts, more families have received support from the community support schemes. Many have also been linked up to the appropriate partners to receive the assistance, from employment and education to financial matters. 

8. I thank all the partners here for the good work that you do – you make a giant impact on the lives of those you encounter. In this Year of Celebrating Social Service Partners, we want to recognise the good work that you and your organisations do.

Individuals and families have agency 

9. Even as we build partnerships to uplift low-income families, let us not forget that these are individuals with agency. They have aspirations. Some want better paying jobs so that they can provide better for their families, others aspire towards owning a home one day.  Many want their children to have a better life.

10. Like all families, many of these families find dignity in providing for themselves and for their children. We all know the feeling of achieving something, especially through our own efforts. Indeed, this strong sense of personal agency and work ethic, is embedded in our psyche. Singaporeans want to work hard to do well for themselves, their families and their communities. We must never take this away.

11. Therefore, as a society, we must enable families, and do so in a manner that respects their personal agency. We must reinforce personal effort even as we work as a society to better support families.

12. This is how we can build a strong social compact. Where Government, community partners, corporates, volunteers come together to help individuals and families in need. And where individuals and families take responsibility and play their part to secure a better future for themselves and for their children. Collective efforts and personal responsibility coming together, helping to achieve the best outcomes for families, and for society.

13. This vision actually resonates with many Singaporeans. In a recent study by MSF, we found that Singaporeans are supportive towards the provision of more support for individuals in need when they have shown personal effort. Many Singaporeans are willing to do their part to help those who are less fortunate, such as by volunteering and through donations.  

14. We are starting with ComLink. Under ComLink, families map out the aspirations they have for themselves and for their children, and co-develop action plans in partnership with ComLink officers. These families take ownership over their action plans, and work towards the goals they set, to achieve Stability, Self-reliance, and Social mobility, the 3S’s that we want for all families, particularly for families who are vulnerable and those who are supported by volunteers and community partners.

 15. Let me share what this looks like, through the story of Mr and Mrs B. Mr B earns about $400 a month as a freelancer, and his wife was a full-time caregiver for their two-year old daughter. They live in a one-room rental flat, but desire to own their own home one day. They also want to ensure a good education for their daughter. After identifying their needs and aspirations, the ComLink officer referred the family to ComCare, to address their immediate financial needs. Through the encouragement of the ComLink officer, Mr and Mrs B attended KidSTART programmes. They decided to enroll their daughter into preschool after learning about the benefits of early childhood education. Mr B searched for better jobs and managed to secure full-time job. This family is now saving up to own a home. With the support of community partners, volunteers, and the Government, Mr and Mrs B are enabled to improve their circumstances and secure a brighter future for their child. 

Society as enabler of self-reliance

16. All of us have a role to play in enabling self-reliance and empowering families, in each of our capacities. 

17. Social service professionals work closely with individuals, helping them recognise that they have agency, building their confidence, and encouraging them to harness their abilities. Social service professionals also work with families to strengthen resilience so that they can weather challenges that may come their way. 

18. Businesses empower people. Fundamentally, businesses operate as employers, enabling individuals to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families. But when businesses offer an employment opportunity to an individual in need, it can set the family on a new trajectory. Businesses can be more deliberate about designing suitable work arrangements and developing opportunities for their workers to upskill and grow.

19. Government will continue to buttress personal effort and supplement the efforts of those who want to better their circumstances.  Workfare and Skills Future are some ways in which we are doing this. Through our policies, we help individuals who want to work and support the development of skills, which become their assets and serve to uplift them in the long term.

20. Individuals and families must do their part. They must dare to hope for a better future for their families and for their children. Work hard to make it happen. And be willing for society to come alongside to support them. As a society, we must recognise their efforts and work with them towards their goals. Together, we can help families secure employment, and better employment that not only provides for their daily needs but facilitates savings. We can support families in owning their own homes. We can help their children reap the benefits of education and achieve their fullest potential in life. 

21. We are studying how to better support families, by reinforcing their personal agency in a more deliberate and effective way. We will rally the community to join us in providing additional support to families who do their part to achieve their ambitions and aspirations, so they can secure a better future for themselves and their children. 

Conclusion

22. In closing, each of us must play our part to build a strong social compact – the Government, the community, businesses, and individuals each working in sync.

23. As we refresh our social compact under Forward SG, let us consider how we can best combine our collective efforts, to reinforce personal effort and uplift families in need. Let us discuss how we can better support families who want to secure a better future for themselves and for their children. Let us come together to shape the caring and inclusive society we all desire.  

24. I look forward to the fruitful discussions ahead. Thank you.