Monday 15 September 2014

New push to explain benefits for pioneers

Pioneer Generation Office will coordinate, train 'PG ambassadors'
By Walter Sim And Toh Yong Chuan, The Sunday Times, 14 Sep 2014

Older Singaporeans with questions about their Pioneer Generation Package benefits can soon turn to the "PG ambassadors" - a group of volunteers who will specialise in explaining the details of the scheme.

The volunteers will be trained and coordinated by civil servants in the Pioneer Generation Office, a new government unit formed as part of a wider effort to help the public understand the package.

The unit, which is funded by the Ministry of Finance but housed under the People's Association (PA), was revealed yesterday by PA deputy chairman Lim Swee Say on the sidelines of the annual PA grassroots seminar.

The pioneer package offers perks such as subsidies for out-patient care and MediShield Life premiums to Singaporeans 65 or older this year who were citizens before 1987.

But some of these pioneers may not understand what they are entitled to under the $8 billion scheme. The office aims to field specific questions from individuals about the package.

"Somebody may be suffering from a certain chronic disease, may be on a certain kind of medication, may have certain needs, so therefore they have very specific questions," said Mr Lim.

Grassroots leaders can refer such residents to the PG ambassadors, he added.

The Government has also been trying to spread the word about the package in other ways, such as by educating health-care staff and grassroots leaders, and mounting an advertising campaign.

A survey of 1,500 Singaporeans in March found that three in 10 do not know about the package. Among those who do, four in 10 are not sure of the benefits.

Mr Lim, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, did not rule out having similar outreach systems in future.

The new unit comes amid renewed efforts by the PA to explain policies more simply to the public, while also collecting feedback to pass on to government bodies.

The PA, an umbrella body of grassroots organisations, yesterday reiterated its focus on acting as an effective conduit between the people and the Government.

This includes representing the "silent majority", who may have ideas on improving government schemes but do not know how to provide feedback, said Mr Lim.

Dr Djoni Huang, 42, assistant treasurer of the Woodlands Citizens' Consultative Committee, said training grassroots leaders like himself to explain policies to the public can help minimise a sense of information overload.

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