Sunday 22 June 2014

CDCs have important role to play: PM Lee

Meet people's changing needs, PM tells mayors
Use next few years well, he urges them at swearing-in ceremony
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 21 Jun 2014

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday called on Singapore's five mayors to intensify their efforts and "use the next few years well" to meet the changing needs of the people.

These new demands include the needs of the rising number of elders who live alone or only with their spouses, as well as integrating newcomers into the society.

"I urge you to use the next few years well. Lead the CDCs (community development councils) to meet changing needs," he said yesterday at the swearing-in ceremony for the mayors. His call to the mayors comes amid the Government's greater emphasis on the population's social needs in this second half of its five-year term.

The mayors are in charge of the five CDCs, whichlead and coordinate grassroots organisations. But more importantly, they play a leading role in helping the Government implement policies better on the ground. One new area he cited is the upcoming social services offices, which are one-stop help centres for residents seeking social and financial aid.

CDCs can help build up these offices meant to "help Singaporeans navigate through the 'kueh lapis' of government assistance programmes", Mr Lee said, referring to the many layers of help available for needy Singaporeans.

"Use your knowledge and networks to help the (offices) start off on the right foot, and strike the right balance between administrative efficiency and the personal touch," he told the mayors.

Mr Lee also wants the CDCs to do more to involve the private sector, by championing corporate social responsibility or encouraging companies to adopt local causes.

"The Government cannot and should not do everything," he said, urging the mayors to "marshal resources in the wider community", including voluntary welfare organisations and volunteers.

"The CDCs are crucial too in working with other government agencies to identify emerging needs and issues," he said.

At the event, the Prime Minister, who is chairman of the People's Association, appointed two new mayors: Ms Low Yen Ling, mayor of South West District, and Ms Denise Phua, mayor of Central Singapore District. They replace Senior Minister of State Amy Khor and Minister of State Sam Tan, who stepped down to focus on new responsibilities in the Health Ministry and Prime Minister's Office, respectively.

The rest were reappointed: Dr Teo Ho Pin, Mr Teo Ser Luck and Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman. Dr Teo takes over from Dr Khor as the mayors' committee chairman.

CDCs aim to help 'emerging groups'
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 21 Jun 2014

ELDERLY folk who need help after being discharged from hospital and people with mental health problems are two "emerging groups" which Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman thinks his Community Development Council (CDC) needs to watch out for.

The South East District's mayor was responding to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call for mayors to, among other things, work with government agencies to identify emerging needs and issues.

Noting that there are more elderly people being discharged from hospitals who live alone or only with an elderly spouse, Dr Maliki said: "We need to look at how the health aspect of recovery connects with the social aspect."

One way to help is to train neighbours and students to check on them, and ensure they take their medication and are not at risk of falling down, added the former social work lecturer who is now Minister of State for National Development and Defence.

As for those with mental health issues, he said they "can function effectively, if they keep to their medication regime and have support from the community".

He said his CDC will work with the Institute of Mental Health and other groups to identify the help gaps and plug them.

Besides the elderly, newly appointed mayor Denise Phua, who oversees Central Singapore CDC, also identified those with disabilities as a group to help.

"Because Central CDC covers the biggest area, I suspect we may have the largest population of those (with) disabilities as well," she said, adding that there are almost one million people in her district.

North East District mayor Teo Ser Luck said that if CDCs are ineffective, "we are another layer of bureaucracy".

Evidently struck by World Cup fever, he likened an effective CDC to a midfielder, saying: "The midfielder feeds the ball to the strikers, or grassroots organisations, who in turn make the goal, or bring benefits to the public."

Remaining effective would require refining existing schemes, said newly appointed South West District mayor Low Yen Ling.

For Dr Teo Ho Pin, mayor of North West District and head of the mayors' committee, good outreach efforts are fundamental. "What is important is reaching out to the needy, to find out what they need and think of ways (for them) to be self-reliant. We need a lot of helping hands."

CDCs' challenge is to help unite Singaporeans
They must continually make an effort to find a common cause: Tharman
By Grace Chua, The Straits Times, 26 Jun 2014

THE "overarching challenge" for Community Development Councils (CDCs) is to find ways to unite Singaporeans, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at a South West CDC ceremony to thank outgoing members and welcome new ones.

At the ceremony, held at The Regent Singapore last night, he said: "As we become a society with more disparate interests, disparate views and preferences, we have to continually make effort to find common cause among Singaporeans.

"That's always been the Singapore agenda - emphasising the common interest of all Singaporeans and finding common cause with each new generation."

Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister, said that besides finding common groundfor people,CDCsare important in other ways, such as ensuring every child gets the best chance to do well in life; giving senior citizens opportunities to lead active, fulfilling lives; and preserving the environment and heritage.

To serve residents well, he said, CDCs must work close to the ground, coordinating corporate organisations, grassroots groups, voluntary welfare organisations and government agencies.

"I think we are off to a very good start in making things more resident-centric rather than agency-centric," he said.

For example, in 2012, the South West CDC launched an integrated registration and referral system so that residents seeking social services, financial assistance or other help need to only fill up one form.

South West CDC mayor Low Yen Ling, who took over from the previous mayor Amy Khor just last week, said she had four immediate priorities:
- Roll out local initiatives.
- Continue to encourage environmental responsibility among residents.
- Promote community health.
- Boost volunteerism in the district, home to some 830,000 people.
At last night's ceremony, 65 district councillors and 40 committee members were appointed to a three-year term.

They come from the corporate sector, grassroots groups and other sectors.

Of these appointees, 32 will be serving their first term on the CDC.

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