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Opening Remarks by Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State, Ministry of Social and Family Development, Ministry of Home Affairs at MSF's Forward Singapore Care Pillar Appreciation Event with Post-Secondary Education Institution Students

Type: Official Speeches (All), Official Speeches: Sun Xueling

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


 

  1. Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to be here together with many of our Post-Secondary Education Institutions (PSEIs) who had journeyed with the MSF since October 2022 as part of the Forward SG Care Pillar Exercise.

     

  2. We had over four dialogues with 270 students from 17 different Post-Secondary Education Institutions. We deep dived into topics such as the inter-locking and complex challenges lower income families face, the lack of awareness of social support and stigma associated with reaching out for help. We also dived into concerns about the lack of opportunities for advancement for youths from lower-income families due to not having access to people and employment networks.

     

  3. It was clear that the students who stepped forward cared about the less fortunate, the vulnerable and the lower income amongst us. And we know that for our youths to have hope in the future, that social mobility must continue to be very much alive and vibrant in our society.

     

     

  4. During these dialogues, many of you shared your personal stories. I remember one of you sharing with me how you felt ashamed that there was family violence happening at home and that you were embarrassed to step forward to seek help. Another shared about not being able to go on overseas exchanges due to a financial inability to pay for the exchange programme. We also heard interesting stories about your part time jobs and how you sought to learn while earning your way through school. There were also other uplifting stories where some of you took the initiative to be a study buddy to others.

     

  5. It was in that spirit through the many learnings from the dialogues that 16 students leaned forward to develop recommendations to submit to the Forward SG Secretariat so that we can work together to uplift families and individuals in need and to provide opportunities for all to progress in life.

     

  6. The 16 students worked hard and periodically sought guidance from the MSF team, sharing their ideas with me in the process, refining your six specific recommendations and finally putting through the report you see in front of you focusing on:
    1. One, strengthening social support for disadvantaged families;
    2. Two, increasing awareness and accessibility of social support schemes; and
    3. Three, broadening definitions of and recognising more pathways to success.

       

  7. Importantly, the students framed the recommendations as what individuals, corporates and the government can do because this is what Singapore society is about. This is what our social compact is about. What we can do ourselves, what we can do for one another. This is what it means for the Singapore society to working together towards a shared future and uplift families and provide opportunities for all.

     

    Launch of the MSF-NUS ComLink Partnership

  8. With our youths’ contribution to the Forward SG Exercise, the next step is to look at how Social Service Agencies, corporates, community partners and volunteers can come together in action to collectively uplift those in need.

     

  9. One example which is the partnership between MSF and NUS on ComLink befriending. ComLink is one of MSF’s programmes where we join hands with our partners to provide support to families with children living in public rental housing. ComLink seeks to uplift these families and enable them to achieve Stability, Self-reliance and Social Mobility.

     

  10. Under ComLink, our Social Service Offices and volunteer befrienders proactively reach out to ComLink families to
    1. Understand their needs, strengths and aspirations,
    2. Journey with them on their customised action plans, and
    3. Partner the community to provide Comprehensive, Convenient, and Coordinated support.
  11. Since the middle of 2022, NUS students have been befriending ComLink families across Singapore with our Social Service Offices as part of a service-learning course in the Communities and Engagement Pillar of the NUS General Education curriculum. To date, approximately 430 NUS students have joined ComLink as befrienders. This is the largest contribution of volunteer befrienders from any organisation thus far. I hear that NUS has plans to grow this pool of volunteers to 1,000 strong once this programme reaches its steady state.

     

  12. I hope that on the back of the Forward SG exercise, that even more PSEIs and youths would take action by stepping forward as ComLink Befrienders.

     

  13. Through serving as ComLink befrienders, youths are able to make a direct and tangible impact on the lives of families and help the families achieve their goals. For instance, this would be a natural extension of the students’ recommendations to help others through providing financial literacy knowledge. This something our young people can share with our ComLink families.

     

  14. Helping vulnerable and lower income families may take time as they face multi-faceted challenges, but through it all, our youths will learn empathetic communication, civic consciousness, real-world complexities and see trade-offs through the eyes of these families.

    Conclusion

  15.  I am deeply heartened that that every one of you here has played a part to help build a more caring society in Singapore. I know this is not easy with the many other commitments you have to juggle, including school, family, and work, and I appreciate your stepping forward to contribute your time, energy and ideas.  A caring society is ultimately about each of us caring enough to look out for others, and believing that we can make a difference. 

     

  16. Thank you for standing up to be counted, and thank you for joining the Forward SG Exercise under the CARE pillar as we join hands to nurture and build lives together, to secure a better tomorrow for Singapore.