Thursday, 4 June 2020

Low-income families to get more integrated support through SG Cares Community Network

Government and its partners to proactively reach out to 50,000 rental flat families to offer help
By Theresa Tan, Senior Social Affairs Correspondent, The Straits Times, 3 Jun 2020

An initiative to proactively reach out to 50,000 low-income families living in rental flats will begin this month, to ensure no one falls through the cracks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Government and its partners, such as charities and grassroots groups, will start on a massive effort of building "a more integrated and proactive social safety net", said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee yesterday.

The SG Cares Community Network will, among other things, send out SMSes with information about the help available to families living in rental flats. Staff and volunteers will call - or even visit - some of these families over the next few months to check in on them and link them up to the help they need, Mr Lee said in a virtual interview.

Beyond reaching out to the needy, it will also work to improve the collaboration and coordination of the work done by different groups in the network to better help these families.

He said: "Community volunteers and staff will start proactively reaching out, beginning with rental flats, especially to those who have not had any contact with government and social (service) agencies to make sure they are doing well. (This is) because they may not know where to seek assistance if they are plunged into crisis during this period."

In the past two years, the SG Cares Community Network has brought together government agencies, social service agencies, grassroots and other groups to collaborate to better serve families in need.

Mr Lee said the network has accelerated its pace of collaboration and integration of efforts.

Its new approach will be a lot more proactive, given the scale of the crisis and the need to make the best use of resources to achieve maximum social impact, he added.

The stresses and strains - financial, mental, emotional and relational - resulting from the outbreak are growing, Mr Lee said.

And people are asking for help in record numbers. About 16,000 calls have been made to the National Care Hotline, which was launched on April 10 to provide psychological first aid and emotional support during the pandemic.

Many of the callers were anxious or depressed over their job security, or face family problems and other woes made worse by the pandemic and circuit breaker measures, he said. The Temporary Relief Fund, which gives a one-off payout of $500, was given in April to over 450,000 people affected by COVID-19 and who needed immediate financial help.

There were about 59,000 applications for the COVID-19 Support Grant in less than a month after it was launched in early May. The grant helps those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic and those who will see their salaries reduced significantly, among other criteria. It provides up to $800 per month for three months.

While many more people are asking for help, Mr Lee said that many individuals and organisations have also stepped up to offer help, including religious groups that opened up their premises to offer temporary refuge to the homeless.

"The economic fallout both in Singapore and around the globe is likely to be protracted and severe. We must ensure we have resources to run a marathon, because this is not a sprint," he said.

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