MPs call for better integration of social service assistance

SINGAPORE - While the newly set up social service offices (SSOs) have been well-received, assistance can be better coordinated, MPs said in Parliament on Wednesday.

Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC) once gathered more than 10 voluntary and government agencies to coordinate the provision of free meals and food vouchers so the needy would not be "over-served, under-served or not served at all".

She said: "Most of the helping hands were either unaware of one another's programmes or were reluctant to work with one another."

Nominated MP Laurence Lien said that social problems may be dealt with too late as the root causes are under the purview of other ministries. For instance, in tackling poverty, the Ministry of Manpower can improve training and low wages, while the Ministry of Education (MOE) can teach disadvantaged youth. But the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) may deal with the issues only downstream with financial aid.

He asked: "How does MSF tackle problems when it often may not have the upstream tools?"

To better integrate services and offer holistic help, the MPs suggested pumping in more funding and manpower to the SSOs and other social agencies.

Drawing up a proper career progression pathway may help voluntary organisations develop and retain good staff, said Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC).

He also suggested tapping into informal sources of manpower to meet the needs of the community. Housewives or retirees can be paid, say, $300 a month, to check on their frail neighbours daily.

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing was to respond on Thursday.

Similarly, MPs spoke of the need to attract more teachers with more childcare centres being set up. Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) called for more training and benefits to be made available to childcare teachers and those interested to join the sector.

Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) asked if grandparents could be given recognition for caring for their grandchildren by being given childcare or infant-care subsidies.

Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong called for the Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme to be made available to pupils in all kindergartens, like how childcare subsidies are given to children in all childcare centres.

It is open only to non-profit kindergartens with no affiliation to racial or religious groups, such as those run by anchor operator PAP Community Foundation. This means fewer than half of the 500 or so kindergartens qualify. It will be extended only to those run by MOE and all anchor operators.


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