THE Community Chest (ComChest) launched a new 24-hour hotline on Monday that offers help within 48 hours to people in times of distress.
The ComChest Care line's quick response team will refer callers to the relevant organisations and even give out small amounts of interim financial assistance on the spot.
Examples of those eligible for help include individuals or families struck by a sudden crisis - such as when a main breadwinner is killed in a traffic accident or a resident notices his neighbour's absence for a few days.
Those manning the helpline will talk to or visit the people in need to ascertain their circumstances before making preliminary assessments or referrals. People who need longer-term support will also be linked up.
This is the first time the ComChest has moved beyond its traditional role of raising funds for charity.
"We don't want to be known as a rich man's outfit which raises huge sums of money, but we want to also show our heart in different ways," said Mr Phillip Tan, chairman of ComChest.
The fund-raising arm of the National Council of Social Service raised more than $72 million last year to help more than 300,000 beneficiaries from 82 charities.
The hotline follows various efforts within the social service sector to establish a "no wrong door" policy so the needy can access help at various touchpoints.
"We want to be an additional net to complement other help- lines out there, so as to capture those who fall through the cracks," said Mr Tan.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development also runs a similar 24-hour hotline called ComCare Call. This refers cases directly to agencies such as family service centres or social service offices.
In the last financial year ending in March, the ComCare Call hotline attended to 28,509 calls, mostly for financial, social and employment assistance.
The ministry also set up 10 new social service offices this year to plan and coordinate help on the ground. However, these are open only during office hours.
As ComChest Care comes under the National Council of Social Service, which has over 400 voluntary welfare organisations under its umbrella, referrals can be made almost immediately.
"How this service (ComChest Care) adds value is that there is a human touch, whereby someone goes down to visit the person in need before referring them," said Mr Andre Wai, assistant general manager of the social service office at Kreta Ayer. "This is crucial, especially if these people are not known cases to the agencies."
Mrs Florence Lim, director of Covenant Family Service Centre, said such cases are normally picked up by local community leaders, who refer a few cases a month to her centre.
"The ones who slip through the cracks - the illiterate, elderly or mentally ill - usually get to us after Meet-the-People sessions or block visits," she said.
"Now, there is another avenue for the public to identify those people and get help."
ComChest Care's 24-hour hotline: 9665-3221
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