Govt to set up nationwide social service map in 3 years

Govt to set up nationwide social service map in 3 years
Staff members of Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centres as well as volunteers conducting developmental programmes for children living in two interim rental housing blocks in Ang Mo Kio.

 SINGAPORE -The Government will set up a nationwide social service map in the next three years, which will locate those in need and provide a directory of agencies such as voluntary welfare organisations.

This mapping will be done progressively as more social service offices (SSOs) run by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) are rolled out. SSOs are one-stop help centres for residents seeking social and financial assistance.

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said the map will help identify and meet the emerging social and welfare needs of residents in the next five to 10 years.

Mr Chan also reiterated the need for a "national database" to track residents who seek help from social service agencies. This will minimise duplication of information when they move from one estate to another and reduce the administrative workload, he said yesterday at a symposium on the social service sector. The minister, who was the guest of honour at the event, first mooted the idea of such a database in October last year.

At the symposium, organised by the Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centres and UniSIM, practitioners discussed trends and challenges in the industry.

The Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centres revealed more details on a pilot programme called Transition Plus, which was launched in January.

Under this programme, social service professionals from the centres engage residents at two interim rental housing blocks in Ang Mo Kio through walkabouts and door-to-door interactions. They work in an office converted from two units on the sixth level of one of the blocks as they want to be "on the ground" to build better rapport with residents.

The Housing Board's Interim Rental Housing scheme provides temporary accommodation for needy families waiting for permanent housing. Two families share a unit, usually a three-room flat.

Those involved in Transition Plus said that the programme is a targeted and effective approach to reach out to those who need help.

Manager of Transition Plus, Isaac Teo, 30, said: "The benefit of us being at the blocks is really to provide accessible help readily. This concept also motivates people to want to get help because it is more convenient."

Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centres executive director Vincent Ng added: "We started this project to help families integrate in a new estate. Our objective is to prevent family problems from escalating through early engagement."

Currently, about 50 out of 200 families living in the blocks receive help under the programme.

Another non-profit organisation that adopts a similar approach is Pave, which is based in Ang Mo Kio. The leading agency dealing with family violence set up a branch in Siglap earlier this year to help needy residents living in interim rental housing blocks in the estate.

Some residents took a while to warm up to the outreach efforts of the social service professionals.

Mr Teo said: "Some families initially didn't want us to be part of their issues, but as we go week after week, they know we are genuine and will open up to us."

Residents who have benefited from Transition Plus have given it the thumbs-up.

A 51-year-old operational executive, who declined to be named, said: "It's very good for us. The office being so near is convenient, and I don't have to go far if I need any help."

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