Social service officer opens in Bukit Merah

Residents of Bukit Merah will have better access to help, with the launch of a new social service office in the estate yesterday.

Located at Block 105 Jalan Bukit Merah, it is one of 10 such offices set up since the middle of last year. Nine more will be rolled out this year.

These offices bring help closer to needy residents and enable voluntary welfare organisations and community partners in their areas to provide more coordinated social services.

The official opening of the Bukit Merah office brings the Ministry of Social and Family Development closer to its target of setting up 20 such offices in HDB towns across the island.

The offices, together with family service centres, will form a network that puts help within 2km of where 95 per cent of needy residents live or work.

NTUC FairPrice Foundation yesterday announced an inaugural donation of $1 million to beneficiaries of ComCare Long Term Assistance, previously the Public Assistance scheme.

ComCare is the Government's main fund to help the needy, and provides short- to long-term aid to low-income families.

About 3,000 beneficiaries get long-term help under ComCare. They cannot work because of old age, illness or disability, and have no family support.

NTUC FairPrice Foundation chairman Ng Ser Miang said he was happy to play a part in supporting these beneficiaries.

"ComCare's aims are aligned to the foundation's objectives in providing a better life for the community, by offering long-term holistic support to beneficiaries who are permanently unable to provide for themselves," he said.

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing officiated at the opening of the office at Bukit Merah with Central Singapore District Mayor Sam Tan.

Since its soft launch in December, the office has served about 2,700 people. About half of them are elderly; the rest are families with young children.

Mr Jai Prakash, general manager of the office, said it serves about 500 residents a month. Some of them used to visit the office in Kreta Ayer but now go to the Bukit Merah office as it is more convenient. He said the office has been working with nearby groups to better help residents and understand their needs.

Before social service offices were set up, residents such as retiree Leong Seong, 81, had to go all the way to the Central Singapore Community Development Council office in Toa Payoh to get financial aid. He said: "Last time, I had to take a bus for about an hour to get there. Now the Bukit Merah office is just a five-minute walk away."

This article was published on May 3 in The Straits Times.

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