By Minister Tan Chuan-Jin
At the opening of the 13th Parliament on 15 January 2016, President Tony Tan Keng Yam outlined the key priorities of the Government over the next few years. Even as we address the many challenges ahead, we need to also remind ourselves of the kind of society we are and the kind of people we aspire to be.
We are a dynamic and diverse nation. This can be a big strength so long as we remain united and anchored on shared values. Building a caring society and a more engaged community will help us achieve that.
When we begin to care for others, we begin to look beyond ourselves as individuals. Collectively, we all play a part in strengthening our social safety nets and ensure continued social mobility, so that no Singaporean is left behind.
My hope and vision for Singapore, is that it will become an even more inclusive society, and a great place for our people, whether young or old, whether able or differently abled.
Strong families and resilient individuals are the basic building blocks of our nation. This is why over the next few years, my MSF colleagues and I will do more in anticipating and responding to changes in societal trends, demographics and family structures.
You can read the full version of the MSF Addendum below, and we will share more details of our plans with you very soon.
Ministry of Social and Family Development
Addendum to The President’s Address
1. The social needs of our citizens and families are becoming more complex as the demographics, economics and family structures in Singapore change. Our social policies and services must evolve so that we can continue to nurture resilient individuals and strong families. Our societal culture must also evolve so that we can become a more inclusive and caring society where no Singaporean is left behind.
2. The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will focus on:
i. strengthening marriages and families;
ii. providing a good start for our young;
iii. extending a helping hand for the vulnerable;
iv. fostering a caring community.
Strong Marriages and Families
3. The family must remain the basic building block of our society. The Ministry is committed to making Singapore a great place for families. We will work with Government agencies, businesses and employers, as well as community organisations to create a conducive environment for Singaporeans to start families and raise children, enjoy family life and experience meaningful family ties.
4. We will provide greater support for couples to prepare for and strengthen their marriages, and offer evidence-based parenting programmes in our schools and community. These will include marriage preparation and support programmes for young couples and Singaporeans marrying foreigners.
5. MSF will also strengthen support for vulnerable families so that they can overcome their challenges and become more stable and resilient. We will look into new ways of engaging such families early, and work with social service agencies to assess their needs holistically to provide more coordinated and effective assistance.
A Good Start for Our Young
6. Children are our hope and future. The Ministry will strive towards giving all our young children a good start in life. We will extend greater attention and support to those from disadvantaged or vulnerable backgrounds so that they too can realise their potential.
7. The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) will continue to expand childcare capacity, particularly in housing estates with more young children. There will be one childcare place for every two children by 2017. ECDA will provide parents with more good quality and affordable childcare options through its Anchor Operator and Partner Operator schemes. It will also continue to enhance the quality of preschool education and the professional development of early childhood educators.
8. To help vulnerable children from low income or disadvantaged families, we will work with other Government agencies and community organisations to identify them and support their developmental needs during their early years. We will also introduce initiatives to help these families improve their home environments for the children’s learning and development, as well as support the children at pre-schools.
9. For children who need protection or care outside of their own homes, we will broaden the care options available to them. This will include working with Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) and volunteers to increase the number of foster families who can offer a nurturing environment for these children to grow up in. To better help youths-at-risk, we will strengthen both government and community systems, programmes and capabilities in prevention, early intervention and rehabilitation.
A Helping Hand for the Vulnerable
10. Those with less and those in need will receive an extra helping hand to overcome their difficulties and improve their lives. We will continue to strengthen our social safety net, review legislations and policies, and improve services to keep in step with emerging needs.
11. We have completed the network of 24 Social Service Offices (SSOs) across Singapore as well as the first phase of the Social Service Net (SSNet) – an integrated information sharing and case management system that will link MSF with other Government and VWO help agencies. Building on their reach on the ground, SSOs will further improve the coordination in planning and delivery of social services for residents within each HDB town. We will also expand SSNet to cover more help agencies. Together, these efforts will ensure that Singaporeans with complex social support needs receive more holistic and integrated help.
12. For persons with disabilities, we will develop the next Enabling Masterplan to build a more inclusive society where they can lead more meaningful lives and become integral members of society. Through assistance in early intervention, education, training and employment, we will help them maximise their potential at different stages of their lives. We will also render greater support for caregivers. We will work with employers, businesses, community organisations and volunteers to raise public understanding and acceptance of persons with disabilities within our communities.
13. To safeguard the interests of the growing number of elderly in Singapore, the Government will review legislations, policies and services to better protect those who are subject to abuse, neglect or self-neglect. We will also look into strengthening support for vulnerable adults in residential care through streamlining regulatory and care standards for residential homes.
A Caring Community
14. The future of caring in Singapore is one where Singaporeans come together to look out for and support one another, especially those amongst us who need a helping hand. Government agencies, VWOs, corporates, community organisations, social service professionals and the wider public all play a part. Through what we do and how we do it, the Ministry hopes to nurture a culture and spirit of giving in Singapore.
15. Professionals including early childhood educators, learning support specialists, social workers, counsellors, therapists, psychologists and care workers lie at the forefront of the social service sector. Through ECDA and the Social Service Institute (SSI), we will groom a larger pool of committed and skilled social service professionals and leaders. We will also expand opportunities for them to develop their capabilities and build fulfilling careers.
16. VWOs play a critical role in mobilising volunteers and donors to complement the work of social service professionals and effort by the Government. The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) will work with VWOs to improve their organisational capability and management of volunteers so as to involve more Singaporean individuals and groups in enriching volunteering experiences. The Community Chest will extend its reach by tapping on new platforms and partnerships to raise funds and rally public support to meet social needs.
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