Convenience for needy residents

Social assistance officer Dorcas Koh (right) chatting with Madam Kuppusamy Nagammah, 56, and Mr Ramasamy Rangasamy, 81, at their Jalan Minyak home.

SINGAPORE - The social service office will not duplicate the work of existing local help agencies.

It serves two main functions: First, the 20 offices are additional "touchpoints" which needy residents can turn to.

For residents who need financial help, the new office acts as the first point of contact, said Ms Claudine Goh, who heads the Kreta Ayer social service office.

Previously, the five Community Development Councils (CDC) administered the financial help programmes under the National ComCare scheme.

If residents need help with other problems, such as housing or family issues, the social service office will then work with other agencies, such as the Housing Board or the family service centres.

Second, it plays the role of a coordinator and planner of social services in HDB towns.

While existing help agencies also carry out periodic case conferences where multiple parties come together to discuss a case, the office, being an extension of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) , can coordinate efforts within and beyond the social service sector, said Ms Goh.

Ms Goh and the other four members in the social assistance team at the Kreta Ayer office were from the social assistance unit at Central Singapore CDC.

Since its soft launch on July 1, the office, which officially opens on Thursday, has served more than 300 clients.

When The Straits Times visited the office last week, its social assistance officers were tending to walk-in clients, attending case conferences and going for home visits.

With help now available closer to home, residents told The Straits Times that the time and cost savings were significant.

Madam Wong, who wants to be known only by her surname, was able to make a quick trip to the Kreta Ayer office during her restaurant's lull period at 4pm on Tuesday last week. The 58-year-old's workplace is a 10-minute walk from the office.

Chinatown resident Chan Siew Hong also appreciates the convenience. He used to apply for aid at Central Singapore CDC in Toa Payoh.

But now, he heads to the office which is just one street away from where he lives.

Said the 67-year-old, who uses a walking aid to get around: "I can just go upstairs to get my documents and come down."

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.