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Covid-19: Government to proactively reach out to vulnerable families, starting with those living in rental flats

SINGAPORE — With the Covid-19 pandemic causing both financial and emotional strain on Singaporeans and their families, the number of households who need help are going to grow. The Government will thus be more proactive in reaching out to the vulnerable and those in need, starting first with residents living in rental flats.

The Government is planning to reach out to more families, identify more people in need and make sure that it offers the support that they require during this Covid-19 crisis.

The Government is planning to reach out to more families, identify more people in need and make sure that it offers the support that they require during this Covid-19 crisis.

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SINGAPORE — With the Covid-19 pandemic causing both financial and emotional strain on Singaporeans and their families, the number of households who need help are going to grow. The Government will thus be more proactive in reaching out to the vulnerable and those in need, starting first with residents living in rental flats.

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister of Social and Family Development, said at a press conference on Tuesday (June 2) that from June, government social service agencies, as well as non-governmental welfare organisations, will be approaching families living in rental flats, especially those who have not had contact with government agencies. 

There are about 50,000 rental households in Singapore. 

Families or individuals putting up at government-built rental flats are typically more vulnerable and would likely be more severely impacted by the economic challenges brought about by the Covid-19 crisis. 

Mr Lee said that this outreach would require significant effort and so, organisations rendering help within the community will have to be better coordinated and integrated than it was before the pandemic. 

For the past two years, these organisations under the SG Cares Community Network have been meeting to bring together different help groups, so that they can identify more schemes or programmes suitable for needy families, especially those with complex needs. 

The organisations include agencies under the Ministry of Social and Family Development, the Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth, the People’s Association, other grassroots advisers, as well as non-governmental welfare groups. 

The pace of collaboration is expected to speed up as the authorities undertake this concerted effort now, Mr Lee said.

First, the agencies will send a message by phone to residents in targeted households to inform them of the various welfare programmes or helplines available to them. 

Then frontline volunteers and staff members will start calling them and, if necessary, start visiting these families to check on them and see how they are coping during this period. 

These frontline officers will then work with the various help groups to see what type of support is best suited for the needs of the households or individuals. 

Mr Lee hopes that the deeper collaboration among organisations under the SG Cares Community Network will help them identify other low-income households who are not living in rental flats, or other families who have not needed financial assistance before but now require aid.

When asked how long the first phase of proactive outreach to rental households would last, Mr Lee said that he does not want to be too specific because this community of residents may face more or less complex challenges than what is anticipated. 

However, he hopes that they could conduct this exercise over three to six months, “maybe longer or maybe shorter”. 

On how the Government is planning to reach out to vulnerable families not living in rental flats in the next phase and whether there is any criteria used, Mr Lee said that there will be some who are visibly distressed, such as those who are homeless. 

Other less visible groups would be seniors or people with disabilities isolated at home, or those going through a financial crisis and are worried about basic needs. 

“What we hope to achieve is that the agencies build stronger relationships with each other, whether you're a government department with another department, from another agency or with one charity or another or the grassroots community…  we hope that this endeavour will strengthen those linkages.

“And that will allow us to reach out to more families, identify more people in need and make sure that we offer the support that they require,” he added. 

The better the coordination is among the agencies within the network, the better they will be able to maximise resources, he said, whether these resources are from the Government, corporate organisations or public donations. 

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