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Govt to expand, consolidate social and health-related services for seniors under Ministry of Health

SINGAPORE — To streamline the delivery of social and health services to seniors, the Government will expand the Community Networks for Seniors (CNS) initiative by 2020 and consolidate these services under the Ministry of Health (MOH), announced Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech on Monday (Feb 19).

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SINGAPORE — To streamline the delivery of social and health services to seniors, the Government will expand the Community Networks for Seniors (CNS) initiative by 2020 and consolidate these services under the Ministry of Health (MOH), announced Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech on Monday (Feb 19).

From April 1, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will transfer its social aged care functions under the Senior Cluster Network and other programmes to the Ministry of Health (MOH).

For example, MOH will able to value add to Senior Activity Centres, which currently come under the MSF’s Senior Cluster Network, by integrating preventive health services to better support seniors to age in place, said a Ministry spokesperson.

It will also allow for better co-ordination of the SAC’s services with the efforts of other community based agencies and organisations that serve seniors, which could reduce duplication and maximise outreach and support for seniors.

The Pioneer Generation Office (PGO) will also be merged with the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC). The AIC will be the central implementation agency to co-ordinate services for seniors and their caregivers.

The PGO was set up in August 2014 to engage those eligible for the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP). It serves seniors aged 65 and above, gathers and trains volunteers known as Pioneer Generation (PG) Ambassadors who go door to door to visit seniors and explain to them the benefits of the PGP and other assistance schemes such as MediShield Life, the Community Health Assist Scheme and the Silver Support Scheme. As of July last year, there were over 3,000 trained PG ambassadors.

The AIC was set up by the MOH in 2009 to oversee all efforts in care integration. The PGO will now serve as AIC’s outreach arm, and be renamed the Silver Generation Office.

“Our friendly Ambassadors will continue to knock on doors wearing their familiar shirts, only they will now be called the Silver Generation or SG Ambassadors,” said Mr Heng.

The consolidation of services under MOH is part of the expansion of CNS, which was first piloted in 2016.

The CNS is aimed at enabling better collaboration between Government agencies and community-based stakeholders so that they can leverage on their respective strengths to support seniors. The expansion of the CNS will be a boon as Singapore grapples with an ageing population, which will comprise an estimated 586,000 citizens aged 65 years and above by 2020.

The networks each have a small team of full-time officers to study the health and social needs of seniors in various communities, and draw together local stakeholders to provide coordinated and tailored support to seniors. These stakeholders include voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs), schools and businesses.

An MOH spokesperson said that the Ministry has partnered some 17 VWOs to date under the pilot phase of CNS in areas such as community befriending, and case management services.

In his speech, Mr Heng also said that the Government will be reviewing the Eldershield scheme. The ElderShield Review Committee released an interim report in January this year, which recommended compulsory enrolment in the scheme, and lowering the registration age from the current 40 to 30.

In addition, the Government will also top up two funds that support Singaporeans in their old age: the Community Silver Trust (CST), and the Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund (SMF).

The Government will provide a S$300 million top-up to the CST, which provides dollar-for-dollar matching for donations to eligible VWOs providing long-term care services. The CST has matched around S$500 million in donations raised by more than 80 VWOs since 2011.

Another S$100 million will be pumped into the SMF, which provides subsidies for assistive devices and consumables for seniors.

A further S$150 million will be spent over the next five years for transport to subsidised eldercare and dialysis centres.

The role and capabilities of Social Service Officers (SSOs) will also be strengthened to better co-ordinate the efforts of Government agencies, VWOs and community partners to provide more holistic and citizen-centred support to those in need, said Mr Heng. He added that this will be done over the next five years.

He said: “These efforts will bring quicker and more effective assistance to our citizens, to help them get back on their feet. The Minister for Social and Family Development will elaborate at the Committee of Supply (debate),” said Mr Heng.

Govt to set aside S$190m a year to encourage philanthropy, volunteerism

SINGAPORE — The Government announced on Monday (Feb 19) enhanced support for measures that encourage people to contribute to the community, including extending 250 per cent tax deduction for donations made to Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) for another three years.

A total of S$190 million a year will be set aside to support these enhancements to encourage philanthropy and volunteerism, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech on Monday. Some of these measures include extending the tax deductions on donations, and increasing matching grants.

In his speech, Mr Heng noted that Singapore’s volunteerism rate has been on the rise, doubling from around 17 per cent to 35 per cent over the last decade. Total donations have also increased from around S$2 billion in 2011 to S$2.7 billion in 2015.

The Business and Institutions of a Public Character Partnership Scheme (BIPS), which was announced during Budget 2016, allows businesses to enjoy a 250 per cent tax deduction on wages and expenses when they send their staff to volunteer and provide services to IPCs. The qualifying expenditure is subject to a cap of S$250,000 per business per year of assessment, and S$50,000 per IPC per calendar year.

One example of an IPC that has benefitted is the Shared Services for Charities (SSC), where accounting firms provide pro bono services such as reviews of internal controls, risk assessment and audit, to charities.

“These firms receive tax deductions, while enabling their staff to volunteer meaningfully,” said Mr Heng.

Enhancements will also be made to the one-stop platform, Giving.sg, to better match donors and volunteers with charities that need help.

The Government will increase the current annual matching grant cap for Community Development Councils (CDCs) from S$24 million to S$40 million. The Government will match S$3 for every S$1 that CDCs raise, up to the annual cap.

To get more individuals to donate, the “SHARE as One” scheme, which provides dollar-for-dollar matching for new and incremental donations, will be extended till 2021. SHARE is the Community’s Chest platform for regular donations, where individuals can contribute through payroll deductions, credit card or GIRO transactions.

Dollar-for-dollar matching will also be provided for donations to the Empowering for Life Fund (ELF) under the President’s Challenge for the next five years.

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