Tuesday 17 February 2015

New Social Service Office in Bukit Panjang aims to meet community challenges

By Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia, 15 Feb 2015

A new Social Service Office (SSO) was opened on Sunday (Feb 15) in Bukit Panjang.

It means residents who require financial and other assistance no longer need to travel to Choa Chu Kang or Woodlands for help.

The SSO, the 16th set up by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, will provide financial assistance and coordinate other services provided by community partners such as voluntary welfare organisations.

The office is also aiming to meet specific community challenges. It is tapping a group of Community Befrienders volunteers to act as its "eyes and ears on the ground".

When Community Befriender Mr Idrus Osman goes on house visits in Bukit Panjang, the 51-year-old often comes across residents who clearly need assistance.

He recounted: "I found this 50-year-old lady who was crippled. She said she lived alone. I asked, ‘How are you going to go to the market and cook if you're in this condition?’ She said, 'Eat whatever is available at home - biscuits or bread.'"

Mr Idrus said following that encounter, the Residents' Committee arranged for cooked food to be delivered to her home six days a week.

There are 65 such Community Befrienders trained to identify residents' needs. But Member of Parliament for Bukit Panjang Dr Teo Ho Pin said he wants to see this number rise to 100.

"We are beginning to see more elderly in Bukit Panjang and some have medical problems, some are staying alone, some are widowers,” said Dr Teo. “When there are more elderly in the community, you need more Community Befrienders."

The new Social Service Office provides financial assistance and it also has a team that identifies social service gaps in the community.

The SSO is planning to ramp up services for the elderly and it is also looking to the Community Befrienders for help.

"Some of them may need companionship so there will be house visits done by Community Befrienders to chat with these families,” said Ms Ida Iryanee Nooraman, general manager of the SSO.

“With old age comes illnesses. They may not have people to accompany them for medical appointments and we do not want them to skip their treatment just because they are poor, so we will see if the Befrienders can accompany these elderly to polyclinics or hospitals for medical appointments."

The SSO said it is also working with Family Service Centres and social workers to create a checklist for Community Befrienders. It hopes the checklist will make it easier for Befrienders to identify residents' needs, compared to lengthy reports.

The SSO has been operating since Dec 23. It said about 30 per cent of its clients are elderly residents. 

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