Sunday 22 September 2013

4 more social service offices by June 2014

Aim is to provide low-income, elderly residents with better access to help
By Lim Yi Han, The Straits Times, 21 Sep 2013

TO BRING help where it is most needed, four new social service offices (SSOs) will be set up in Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Queenstown and Sengkang by next June.

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing revealed this yesterday at the official opening of an SSO in Jalan Besar, where there is a large proportion of low-income and elderly residents.

"We have gone into detail to see where are the people who need help, and... where it is convenient for them to seek help based on their travel patterns," he said. "So we have decided the next tranche will be at these four locations. We have already identified the sites, now we are in the final stages of the designs."

The SSOs, which are run by his ministry, will work with voluntary welfare organisations and community partners in their areas to better coordinate the social services they offer.

The Jalan Besar office joins six others that have been set up since the scheme was announced in February. One is in Kreta Ayer, while five others are co-located with the five Community Development Councils (CDCs) which serve various parts of the island.

Three more SSOs - in Boon Lay, Choa Chu Kang and Bukit Merah - will open by the end of this year. The plan is to create a network of 20 such offices within the next two to three years.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, the guest of honour at yesterday's opening of the SSO in Jalan Besar Community Club, highlighted the "targeted approach" the office will bring to social assistance.

"If you look at the central district, our profile is largely low-income and elderly. The SSO will help us to, first of all, coordinate our resources better... to give vulnerable families a more holistic assistance (and)... ensure nobody falls between the cracks," said the Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP.

Jalan Besar SSO's general manager Sharon Chua said the feedback received has been positive as the location is convenient for residents, who used to go the Central CDC in Toa Payoh for help.

She also expects it to handle about 10 per cent to 20 per cent more cases per month as more people know about the office, which started operating in July with 11 staff. It has already handled 800 walk-in cases, with 70 per cent of them involving people looking for financial help, such as Ms Ismail, a mother of six.

The 28-year-old housewife, who lives in a two-room rental flat near Jalan Besar and whose husband is currently in prison, visited the office last month. She will receive $670 a month until November, along with rental and conservancy fee vouchers.

"The SSO is a more efficient system, and officers will call us up to check on the situation and update me," she said. "I feel that they are concerned about us and they really go one step further."

Earlier this month, Mr Wee Cheow Thow, who lives alone in a one-room rental flat near the SSO, also applied for financial assistance and is now receiving $350 a month.

The 68-year-old retiree said in Mandarin: "I have to see the doctor every three months. If I don't receive any help, I cannot get by. This means a lot to me. The staff here are very helpful."

MSF to roll out consolidated social service map
By Sara Grosse, Channel NewsAsia, 19 Sep 2013

The government aims to strengthen the delivery of social services through its national database and a larger network of Social Service Offices (SSOs).

However, a key challenge for the government will be in coordinating services and ensuring that those in need ultimately benefit from easier access to its services.

In an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia, Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing said he envisions a consolidated social service map of Singapore in the next three years.

This mapping will be done progressively as more SSOs are rolled out.

The government's social service map of Singapore will meet immediate needs as well as serve as a forward-looking tool in planning.

In the first instance, the map will locate individuals or families in need as well as provide a directory of social services, such as Voluntary Welfare Organisations and Family Service Centres, around Singapore.

Mr Chan said the map will help identify what are the emerging needs in the next five to 10 years, and whether the Ministry of Social and Family and National Council of Social Service have to work together to start building that capacity in time to come to meet those emerging needs.

Already, when each SSO is rolled out, a local map is provided to community partners. Stakeholders are already seeing benefits in greater coordination.

For O'Joy Care Services, which provides counselling for the elderly, the map has helped the centre linked up with other stakeholders.

Choo Jin Kiat, executive director of O Joy Care Services, said: "With the map, we now have a very visual idea where are the help available. At this moment, let's say for example, we want to network with someone else. We know how far away it is and what's more important is when we refer such things to our clients, we also can tell them how far they need to go."

Grassroots organisations have also found a faster response from SSOs when getting help for the financially-distressed.

James Ng, assistant secretary of Kolam Ayer Senior Citizens' Executive Committee, said: "I think in the past, a few of the volunteers sometimes would come up with their own cash or donation to settle whatever things the needy needs urgently. While waiting, you don't know how long it would take for them to come back to us. Currently, with such a good communication with the SSO office, we find that it makes our job easier."

The map of social services, however, will not mean that those who need assistance will be confined to getting help only from their neighbourhood SSO.

The shared data base between SSOs will help ensure that residents will be able to go to any office, for example, one that's near their work place.

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