Faster help for needy with social database

Faster help for needy with social database

People who need help will get it more quickly when a national database of aid recipients is ready from the third quarter of next year.

The tender to develop the system, called Social Service Net, was awarded to consultancy firm Accenture for $26.5 million, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) yesterday.

The needy will find it easier to get help under the system - they do not have to provide details such as the problems they face or submit the same documents each time they go to a new agency.

The needy do often have to approach different agencies as they tend to have multiple needs, from financial aid to housing or employment problems.

The national case management system for the social service sector will be similar to that for health, which allows doctors to call up a patient's records no matter where the patient is treated.

Likewise, even if the needy were to move from one part of the city to another, their case histories could still be accessed readily.

The new social database also benefits social workers, as they can access the records with just a few keystrokes to find out the aid given to their client and focus on what further help is needed.

On a broader level, the system will help the Government in its planning as it can use the data to spot emerging social trends and problems, MSF Minister Chan Chun Sing had said previously.

The system is a joint effort by MSF and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore.

Safeguards will be put in place to protect clients' confidentiality and privacy. For example, sensitive medical information or those garnered from counselling will be shared only when needed and upon consent by the client, said a MSF spokesman.

For a start, family service centres and social service offices - often the first stops for residents seeking help - will be able to access the database next year. Other agencies, such as voluntary welfare organisations, will be able to do so later.

In the statement yesterday, Mr Chan said it will take some time for all agencies to transit to the new system even after it is developed. "Our aim is to better serve those in need. We will provide the necessary support and work closely with all partners to ensure a smooth transition," he said.

Ms Sharminee N. Ramachandra, assistant director at THK Family Service Centre @ Bukit Panjang, welcomed the database.

She said: "Beneficiaries sometimes feel that they are being shunted from pillar to post, having to repeat their stories two to three times.

"This can be difficult especially for those who have to share traumatic experiences again and again."

This article was first published on May 31, 2014.
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