Sunday, 19 January 2014

Govt gives social services a $250m boost

PM Lee pledges to match donations to VWOs to spur private giving
By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 18 Jan 2014

A WAR chest of $250 million has been set aside by the Government to match donations to social service organisations dollar for dollar this year.

In the largest push yet to spur private contributions to voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made this pledge yesterday, and said that the money would go towards building the capabilities of the social services sector.

It will fund new programmes, facilities and staff training to meet rising needs, he added, producing a stronger network of VWOs that will play a "valuable role" in the next phase of nation-building.

The total target amount to be channelled to VWOs will be $500 million - half from the public, half from the Government.

"VWOs can have confidence that they have the resources and backing to deal not only with immediate issues, but their long-term challenges and capability needs too," Mr Lee said.

The $250 million commitment is in support of the Care and Share movement launched last October to encourage donations and volunteerism in the run-up to Singapore's 50th anniversary celebrations in 2015.

Singapore's 50th birthday, he said, is a time for celebration as well as reflection and re-commitment to helping fellow Singaporeans, and making progress together as one society.

The Government will do more to support Singaporeans and their families, especially the needy and vulnerable, he added.

He urged the community to also do more to support the less fortunate, not because "the law or the Government says so", but because these are the values of Singapore society.

At the event, a $756,000 bursary to pay for the transport of 315 children yearly to the 17 early intervention centres across Singapore was also announced by Temasek Holdings' charity arm, Temasek Cares.

Representatives of VWOs hailed the $250 million pledge.

Executive director of Rainbow Centre June Tham hoped it would help the special education school's fund-raising for a new building. "We need to raise $5 million, and even if we don't get $2.5 million through this, any amount would really help."

Mr Phillip Tan, chairman of the Community Chest, the main body behind the Care and Share drive, said it would be "no problem" for the VWOs to raise the other $250 million.

Major organisations like the Singapore Hotel Association, Orchard Road Business Association and SingTel have already pledged to give more than last year, he said.

"We didn't have to negotiate this figure," he added.

"All we heard is that the Minister (for Social and Family Development, Mr Chan Chun Sing), told us, 'PM said, don't worry about the money. Worry about the involvement of the community, because this is about the participation of the community and not just about the money'."

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