New role for CDCs to match new social needs

SINGAPORE - As the social needs of families become more diverse, the way help is given should also be decentralised, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Wednesday.

This ensures that the social assistance provided will not just be a better fit, but also be more readily available through better coordination among community development councils (CDCs), grassroots and community agencies.

"This is how we want to go about delivering social services - in a more citizen-centred way," said Mr Tharman. 

He was outlining the new direction that CDCs will take in rendering social assistance, at South West CDC's annual district meeting on Wednesday. Disbursing financial aid is a key function of CDCs.

But from this month, the administration of national assistance schemes has been taken over by social service offices (SSOs) run by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

This has led some to question if CDCs, which were set up in 1997, will relinquish their role of assisting the needy. South West District Mayor Amy Khor on Wednesday gave the assurance that this will not be the case.

Instead, with the ministry taking over the disbursement of national aid schemes such as Com- Care, CDCs will be freed up to come up with local programmes to meet evolving needs.

She highlighted three areas that Singapore's five CDCs will focus on in the year ahead.

The first is caring for the elderly, in the light of an ageing population, where more will face the prospect of social isolation.

Secondly, CDCs hope to encourage volunteerism, especially among the young.

They also want to strengthen the social safety net for the vulnerable by getting the more able, including corporate partners, to reach out to the less fortunate. This is already happening, said Dr Khor, pointing to the South West ComCare Bursary for needy polytechnic students, which was launched at yesterday's meeting.

A total of $1.08 million, funded by corporate partner KKL Enterprise and matched by the South West CDC, has been set aside for the bursary.

In turn, recipients will have to volunteer with grassroots organisations. Mr Terence Quek, who oversees the community programmes at South West CDC, said the new role of CDCs will prevent the duplication of SSO services.

"Sometimes, people come and say they want to do something for the elderly but they don't know where to begin and later give up," he said.

"The CDCs are now better positioned to connect people and resources together."

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