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Speech by Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Masagos Zulkifli at YCPartners Appreciation Event at Park Royal Pickering Hotel, 20 Nov 2023

Type: Financial Assistance & Social Support, Social Service Agencies & Partners

Topic(s): Financial Assistance & Social Support


Introduction

 

Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming together for this very special occasion. Today, we celebrate and appreciate our partners, and your work to empower those in need.

 

Appreciating Partners of the Social Sector

 

  1. As partners, you make significant contributions to the social sector. The diversity in the room shows that there are many entities who contribute to building a more caring Singapore, from Institutes of Higher Learning, academics, corporates, and social enterprises, to community partners, volunteers, and social service agencies.

     

  2. Among us are those who support Persons with Disabilities, champion inclusive hiring, advance women’s development, and promote family bonding. Many strengthen protections for vulnerable groups, and help individuals and families in distress bounce back. There are individuals who drive social innovation, and provide research insights.

     

  3. Over the course of this Year of Celebrating Social Service Partners, we have cast a spotlight on the great work that many of you do. We went around meeting with partners and hearing about the good work that you do. I’ve personally met with many of you – CEOs, board members, senior management, and had the pleasure of hearing your stories. And how contributing meaningfully has benefitted your organisation. We amplified these stories, and these stories have reached over 95 million views over the many various platforms.

     

  4. This year, many of us have come together to discuss issues and exchange ideas, to further strengthen our sector. Earlier this year, we discussed the evolving role of corporates in society at a dialogue organised by raiSE. We also discussed Sustainable Philanthropy at the Social Service Summit. The family service community came together as a community to reflect and develop ideas for the road ahead.

     

  5. In gathering, we have sparked many cross-sector collaborations. The MOU between MSF, Sentosa Development Corporation and its 18 Island Partners to embed inclusion across Sentosa is just one example.

     

  6. Looking back in this Year of Celebrating Social Service Partners, we have much to be thankful for. For friendships forged, for partnerships forged, and ultimately for the impact we make to the lives of those we serve.

     

  7. Good job, thank you everyone!

     

    Importance of Partnerships

     

  8. Indeed, partnerships are worth celebrating. It’s our working together, not apart or against, that has allowed Singapore to enjoy the success we have today.

     

  9. Because of this partnership, we were able to tide through the pandemic and emerge stronger. Businesses, Government, and the people took their roles and responsibilities really seriously. Businesses shut down to minimise spread of the disease, our people wore masks without fail, and they stood behind our healthcare workers. During this difficult period, the professionals in the social sector too worked tirelessly and being the face of care and love to those in need. The Government planned far ahead. Incorporating the lessons from SARS, we designed the purpose-built National Centre for Infectious Diseases facility and launched it right before the pandemic hit. All our efforts came together, enabling us to keep the loss of lives low, reduce the negative impact on livelihoods, and maintain the unity of our people.

     

  10. It’s this unity and working together that will keep Singapore strong, even amidst a challenging geopolitical environment and worrying trends ahead. When we work together, we can achieve big things. We can tackle complex issues, we can introduce bold ideas, and we can see things through.

     

    Our Singapore Dream

     

  11. We have been able to sustain economic growth, support Singaporeans at different stages of life, and become a more caring society, because of the efforts of all of us – businesses, Government, individuals, families, each of us playing our part.

     

  12. Because of this, we have not gone down the route of widening income disparities and divisions between the “haves” and the “have-nots” which have weakened many societies.

     

  13. Together, we have been able to sustain the Singapore dream. The dream of having a good job with salary, owning a home that we can proudly call ours, giving our children the best opportunities that we can, and finding fulfilment and purpose in our lives.

     

  14. We want Singapore to continue to be a place where social mobility is kept alive for all, especially lower-income families who may face unique challenges. Many Singaporeans share this vision and agree that more support for lower-income families is needed. At the same time, they think that this needs to be done in a manner that does not erode self-reliance and agency.

     

  15. Over the years, the Government has been expanding our support for lower-income families. In the past year alone, we have engaged many groups, including many partners here, on how as a society, we can further help lower-income families to build better lives.

     

    Packages to Support the Efforts of Lower-Income Families

     

  16. I’m pleased to share today that we have incorporated views from these engagements in our next bound of support for lower-income families.

     

  17. To further empower lower-income families and accelerate their progress towards achieving stability, self-reliance and social mobility, we will provide additional support through two key shifts. This will be done through the enhanced ComLink, we call this ComLink+:

     

  18. The first shift is this: To provide stronger, relational support, we are upgrading our ComLink officers to Family Coaches. Family Coaches work with families to understand their needs, their strengths, and their aspirations; journey with them on their customised action plans; and organise support around their specific needs, in partnership with the community. We will further equip our Family Coaches with the skills to coach and motivate families. When families feel understood and supported, they are more likely to actively participate in the decision-making process and take steps towards their goals. With support from Family Coaches to meet their immediate needs and stabilise their situations, families tell us that they feel more optimistic about their future.

     

  19. Second, we will provide additional financial support, beyond basic, short-term social assistance. This will go some way towards easing the resource pressures that families face, so they can focus on and make progress towards their goals. They will also supplement the efforts of families so they can achieve their longer-term goals more quickly.

     

  20. These top-ups will be provided through four packages in areas that ComLink+ families tell us they aspire towards – preschool education, employment, financial stability, and home ownership. Family Coaches will recommend suitable packages to families, based on their action plans, with payouts made when families take concrete steps to:

     

    1. enrol their children in preschool and maintain good attendance;
    2. secure stable employment;
    3. improve their financial stability through debt clearance; and
    4. save up towards home ownership.

       

  21. To illustrate how this works, take for example a family of three staying in a rental flat – the father is a gig worker while the mother stays at home to care for their daughter who is about to turn 3. They share with their Family Coach that they hope to earn more so that they can buy and own their three-room flat one day, but the goal seemed daunting and out of reach.

     

  22. The Family Coach will guide the family in working out an action plan, which helps them lay out the steps that they can take to build up their finances and eventually fulfil their homeownership dream.

     

  23. The steps could include helping the father secure a job that provides more stable income with employer CPF contribution and potentially higher wages, and enrolling their daughter in preschool so that the mother can return to work to increase the family’s income. The family is motivated to take the steps needed, but their own effort could do with an additional boost from the packages that the Family Coach could offer:

     

    1. For example, the family would receive payouts, funded by a donor, when they enrol their daughter in childcare and ensures she attends regularly.
    2. The package on employment could encourage the mother to return to work. If she does, the family not only gains more income from work but also payouts from the package. In fact, when both parents are in CPF-paying jobs, the payout that they each can get is even higher! This gives the family more financial flexibility and increases their CPF savings, bringing them closer to their home ownership goal over time.
    3. When the family’s income increases and they can make a voluntary CPF contributions, a donor and the Government will make a CPF top-up at double the amount of their contributions, to accelerate their progress towards making a down payment for their flat.

       

  24. In this way, ComLink+ families will receive stronger, all-round, family-centric support, and they can make progress in their journey towards stability, self-reliance, and social mobility. These four packages will be rolled out progressively from the second half of 2024.

     

    Partnerships with All Segments of Society

     

  25. We have hope of uplifting lower-income families in Singapore because of the support across all segments of society.

     

  26. We have seen many partners come forward to journey with lower-income families. They are working across sectors, collaborating with the Government and social service agencies to achieve sustained impact. I would like to recognise and commend the 170 over partners who are providing support to ComLink+ families. Many of you are here today – such as the National University of Singapore, OCBC, Biome Entertainment, and UOL’s Pan Pacific Hotels Group, to name a few. Thank you.

     

  27. In this next bound of support, many partners have also stepped forward to contribute. I would like to make special mention of two of these partners today.

     

    1. DBS is an anchor partner for ComLink+. The bank has leveraged its core strengths to run financial literacy workshops for children living in rental flats, benefiting around 60 children to date. Many DBS staff are volunteering as befrienders to ComLink+ families. Going one step further, DBS will be making a generous donation to fund the packages that encourage families to enrol their children in preschools and to save up for a home. Thank you DBS.
    2. Singapore Pools is a key partner and has funded educational programmes for children in ComLink+ families. Singapore Pools will be making a contribution to fund the package that helps families to clear their debt more quickly. This is projected to support up to 240 families. Thank you Singapore Pools.

       

  28. Likewise, academics are contributing to uplift lower-income families amongst us. Several academics have generously shared their expertise in the design of ComLink+. A team of researchers will also be evaluating the effectiveness of the packages.

     

  29. In this way, all of us – the families themselves, social service agencies, companies, individuals, and the Government – come together and leverage our respective strengths, to progress together as a society. This is how we sustain social mobility. This is how we keep the Singapore dream alive.

     

    Building on Strong Foundations

     

  30. We are confident that these moves will support families’ progress because of the strong foundations that have been laid in the past.

     

  31. We have worked hard to get our fundamentals right, to provide quality education, generate good jobs, create different pathways to suit different strengths, and make housing affordable. These latest moves for lower-income families build on the strong base we have established.

     

  32. What this means is that families can receive parenting support and send their children to quality preschools, to nurture their children from the early years. It also means that individuals motivated to secure a job are supported by an ecosystem to acquire the necessary skills, be matched to a suitable job that exists, and benefit from wage support. Building on this, under ComLink+, families will receive a boost to achieving their longer-term goals, through Family Coaches who will organise support around families’ needs, and financial top-ups that will help families achieve their goals more quickly.

     

  33. These moves demonstrate our community’s commitment to invest in long-term outcomes. Rather than quick fixes, we want to enable families to build resilience and secure sustained stability and self-reliance, and ultimately social mobility. It may take a generation or more, but we know that by reinforcing families’ ability to provide their children with a good start in life today, we give them a better chance of a brighter tomorrow.

     

    Conclusion

     

  34. What a year it has been. This Year of Celebrating Social Service Partners has shown us how much we can achieve when we work together.

     

  35. This afternoon, we wrap up the Year, connecting with one another, celebrating partnership, and renewing our common purpose.

     

  36. Once again, I would like recognise each and one of you, partners to the social sector, for your unwavering support and your commitment to create a more caring society. Together, let us build a better and brighter future for Singapore. Thank you.