Cultivating a caring and inclusive society for all
Speech by Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth at the 2018 Committee of Supply debate
08 March 2018
Mr Chair, with your permission, I will display some slides.
Minister Fu highlighted that a key focus area for MCCY this year is to partner Singaporeans in building a home where we care for and look out for others.
As Minister shared, our volunteerism and philanthropy rates have grown. More Singaporeans are prepared to put into action their desire to do good for others.
In line with the broader SG Cares objective of creating a caring and inclusive home for all, I will share how MCCY is partnering Singaporeans to build a strong civic culture of care, consideration, and contribution across the various domains under our Ministry.
Extending outreach across all sectors of society
Ms Rahayu Mahzam asked how the arts and heritage can be used to encourage inclusiveness. Through our ArtReach initiative, we will continue to promote arts access to underserved communities for wellness, and to build social connections.
For example, NAC has partnered the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) to promote the well-being and active ageing of seniors, by integrating arts into community care. Almost 400 healthcare staff from 89 community care facilities have been equipped with the capability to run arts programmes. Following our visual arts residency pilot in 9 nursing homes last year, NAC and AIC will develop more arts-based resources to continue building capabilities in this sector.
The Befrienders Arts Toolkit will be launched in June to provide social service organisations with arts-based activity ideas to support the process of befriending seniors.
To broaden outreach to underserved and less mobile seniors, we will also tour Silver Arts commissioned programmes, featuring Singapore short films, to facilities in the community care and social service sectors.
We announced last year that the WeCare Arts Fund, in partnership with the Community Development Councils (CDCs), would be renewed with $1 million over the next 2 years. This is to support collaborations between social service organisations and the arts community, to benefit isolated seniors, persons with disabilities (PwDs), and vulnerable youths.
Earlier this year, I was pleased to attend the launch of “Is Anyone Home?”, an exhibition by Superhero Me, a ground-up inclusive arts movement. The exhibition featured the imaginative artworks and stories of children from diverse backgrounds including children with special needs and those from low-income families.
I was moved to see how these budding artists interpreted childhood and expressed their hopes and dreams. Projects like these use arts as a powerful means to engage children, build their confidence and realise their potential.
Social service organisations can tap on WeCare Arts Fund to work with artists to develop interactive arts workshops customised to the needs and interests of their beneficiaries. Since its initiation in 2014, the fund has supported 170 centres, close to 350 programmes, and over 8,000 beneficiaries.
One example is Jia Ying Senior Activity Centre, which participated in a programme where seniors paired up with youths on art-making. The seniors who were previously isolated are now making new friends, and have developed a more positive mind-set and outlook on life.
We will also continue to improve arts access and opportunities for persons with disabilities. This month, we will host the first Arts and Disability International Conference, co-organised by NAC and Very Special Arts Singapore. This will facilitate the sharing of best practices and innovative approaches to promote inclusivity in the arts. The Conference is part of the inaugural True Colours Festival, which will showcase artists with disabilities from Singapore and the Asia-Pacific.
Greater inclusivity and accessibility to our heritage programmes
Our shared heritage is what binds us as a nation and it belongs to us all. Minister spoke about increasing accessibility to our museums and heritage institutions as part of Our SG Heritage Plan. The first step is to audit the accessibility of our museums, to identify universal design solutions and assistive technologies for different groups.
To actively engage audiences at our heritage spaces, our HeritageCares programmes provides beneficiaries of social service organisations with opportunities that encourage meaningful intergenerational bonding, enhance social skills, provide quality educational experiences and promote active ageing. Since March 2016, over 200 such programmes have served about 8,000 participants.
Workshops and programmes such as guided trails of historical sites are tailored to meet the needs of families in-need, adults and children with special needs, vulnerable youths, and seniors.
One new initiative under Our SG Heritage Plan is for our heritage institutions to be ‘Silver Hubs’, to promote active aging and intergenerational interactions. This will offer opportunities for seniors to be active participants in our heritage, by volunteering as guides and facilitators in galleries.
A Conversation Starter Kit was also piloted last year, for seniors to share their personal and community experiences amongst Singaporeans across all ages.
Empowering Singaporeans to act in service of one another
Youth Corps Singapore
Our youths play a critical role in growing a strong civic culture of care, consideration, and contribution.
Youth Corps Singapore (YCS) was established to develop youth volunteers and leaders, and inspire more youths to give back to the community through causes such as social service, education, environment, arts, sports and heritage.
Since its launch in 2014, YCS has expanded from 90 volunteers to more than 14,000, and works with partners to provide over 3,000 local volunteering opportunities annually. YCS also offers opportunities to volunteer overseas through Youth Expedition Project (YEP).
Last year, more than 4,000 youths from ITE, polytechnics, universities, and working adults embarked on such overseas service-learning opportunities through social service organisations in our region, where they organised projects that benefitted local and overseas communities.
One example is Team Nias, a group of 16 youths from NTU who embarked on a mission to install solar panels in Nias, Indonesia. Here, we see some of them in action, teaching English to the local kids. Unfortunately, the solar panels did not arrive in time. Undeterred, the team used their own pocket money to return the following week to install the panels.
The team demonstrated strong dedication in meeting the community’s needs, and resilience in overcoming setbacks.
We also have the Immersion Programme, which will have its first run in April. In this programme, youth leaders will be deployed to social service organisations serving communities with special needs, the young and vulnerable, and the elderly. The youths will be equipped with skills in community engagement, eldercare and volunteer management, so that they can help spread the culture of volunteerism.
We recognise that not all youths have the resources or opportunity to participate in these development programmes while in school. Hence, we will explore ways to make programmes such as YEP and Outward Bound Singapore more financially accessible, and open up opportunities for more youths outside school to apply.
In the realm of sports, we are encouraging Singaporeans to give back through Team Nila. Team Nila volunteers are our capacity and community multipliers, who mobilise a wider group of residents on the ground.
As of February, there are about 17,700 Team Nila volunteers with a target to reach 18,000 by the end of this month. I am pleased to see strong representation of volunteers across races and age groups, from youths to seniors, passionate about bringing the benefit of sport to their neighbourhoods.
Mr Darryl David asked about our plans to develop Team Nila. Since 2014, SportSG has been transforming Team Nila volunteers into community and events leaders.
We have volunteers actively supporting the physical and mental development of children and youths in their roles as assistant coaches with ActiveSG Academies and Clubs. This number is set to grow as more academies and clubs are introduced.
There are plans for Team Nila volunteers to assist allied health trained experts in helping residents take ownership of their health and wellness. In times of emergency or crisis, we have 750 volunteers trained in CPR and the use of Automated External Defibrillators who could provide community support.
SportSG will continue to equip Team Nila with the necessary skills through structured training plans. For example, this year we will see about 500 volunteers undergo various WSQ training programmes in service excellence, leadership and people management.
Ms Joan Pereira asked how sports helps improve the lives of our seniors. Being a part of Team Nila has enabled our seniors to maintain friendships and social circles of like-minded individuals, and allowed them to derive satisfaction from sports volunteerism.
One example is the sprightly Mdm Hajjah Zubaidah Binte Abdul Ghani, a 64-year old senior assistant at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, who finds it meaningful to be a Team Nila volunteer. Mdm Hajjah Zubaidah first joined Team Nila in January 2015, and has been part of major sporting events such as the 28th SEA Games, the 8th ASEAN Para Games, and GetActive! Singapore 2017.
To recognise outstanding volunteers who have embodied the spirit of giving and contributed actively, SportSG has launched two new awards on January 1st, namely, the Outstanding Team Nila and Team Nila Tiered Awards. We hope to see more Singaporeans step up to volunteer, whether as part of Team Nila, or for a cause close to their hearts and interests.
Ms Joan Pereira also asked how sports can be used to improve the lives of those in need, such as at-risk youths, and how MCCY is working with the Public-People-Private sectors to broaden outreach and engagement.
Since the launch of SportCares in 2012, schools, community groups, corporates, and individuals have come together to support sports initiatives that benefit and transform vulnerable communities. We provide platforms that facilitate joint stewardship and active citizenry. Beneficiaries are encouraged to give back to the community, with 400 SportCares youths contributing 7,000 volunteering hours last year.
One good example is Hands to Hearts, a community crafting project which also exemplifies 3P collaboration. In 2017, Hands to Hearts saw SportCares youths take the lead to sew tactile activity pillows for seniors with Alzheimer’s. They were joined by 2,000 volunteers including staff from corporate bodies such as UOB Bank and Comfort Delgro, as well as students from Tanglin Trust International School and Madrasah Aljunied.
The project showed us that that we can achieve more if we work together. We will continue to partner our stakeholders, to reach out to the underserved.
We will extend this sense of shared endeavour amongst our partners via the development and adoption of the new HEARTS framework. This framework was developed with our partner organisations, and is intended to help youths chart a positive course in their lives.
To be launched in April, the pilot framework will be shared with social service organisations and schools in the form of a handy toolkit. The idea is to provide community practitioners with easy to use resources to design sport-based social development programmes for youths.
Complementing this will be 8 SportCares Partner Schemes that will provide support and resources to community groups, Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), National Sports Associations (NSAs) and corporates to “do good” through sport.
Disability Sports Master Plan
To further promote inclusivity, the Disability Sports Master Plan (DSMP) aims to expand access and opportunities for sports participation to all regardless of abilities, and build public awareness of disability sports.
We have annual platforms like the Inclusive Sports Festival, that help create greater awareness for disability sports such as wheelchair rugby. SportSG will continue to strengthen its partnership with disability sports organisations such as Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC) and Special Olympics Singapore, as well as with Team Singapore athletes.
To date, SportSG has connected mainstream schools such as Bowen Secondary to social service organisations such as MINDSville Napiri Training Centre through adaptive sports. SportSG is also working with SPED schools such as Lighthouse School to introduce sports as co-curricular activity options.
Since 2016, we have launched 2 Centres of Expertise and 3 inclusive gyms, as well as 4 disability sports programmes under the DSMP. Over 2,000 persons with disabilities have visited our gyms, and more than 300 have participated in the programmes.
SportSG, through ActiveSG, will also be launching 2 more inclusive gyms and more disability sports programmes, such as Wheelchair Tennis, in 2018.
Our Singapore Fund
Through Our Singapore Fund, we will continue to encourage our people to come together to make Singapore a better home.
The Fund aims to nurture our Singapore identity and values, and support ground-up initiatives by citizens.
To address Ms Rahayu Mahzam’s question on the Fund’s status, since its launch in August 2016, over 100 projects across the arts, heritage, community, and volunteerism sectors have been supported, reaching out to over 200,000 residents whether as participants, partners or volunteers. We have also simplified our processes to make it easier for more people to apply for the fund.
Beyond numbers, each project demonstrates how Singaporeans are taking the initiative to reach out, across age, income or race, to care for one another as one people.
An example is Project CARE. It stands for Caring with Authenticity and Respect for Elders, which rallies volunteers to visit and befriend isolated seniors. During the lunar new year, Project CARE teamed up with Carousell, an online marketplace platform, to mobilise the community to donate items to elderly in need.
Encouraging contributions by creating a safe environment for giving
To cultivate a caring society, we require a strong charity sector that inspires confidence and encourages people to step forward and contribute with peace of mind.
Mr Darryl David asked about our plans on helping smaller charities better comply with regulations and our plans to regulate and manage online donations.
We will work to ensure a safe and transparent giving environment through co-operation and partnership with the various charitable bodies, in 2 main areas.
One, we will strengthen smaller charities’ regulatory compliance through co-regulation and more targeted guidance. Starting in mid-2018, we will work with the umbrella bodies to set up shared services, and develop legislative guidance to help charities comply with the regulatory requirements.
With the launch of the refined Code of Governance in 2017, we will continue our efforts to organise sharing sessions on the Code for specific sectors, such as the Malay Muslim Organisations and Hindu charities. Last year, we held sessions for churches, Chinese temples and arts and heritage charities.
Two, we will be enhancing safer giving measures, and heightening transparency and accountability through 3 means:
First, by setting visibility standards for charities. To enhance the disclosure practices of charities and facilitate donors in their giving decisions, the Commissioner of Charities will develop a visibility guide, to be launched in mid-2018. This will help charities put out key information such as use of donations and activities of a charity in a simple manner.
Second, a safer giving campaign will be launched in phases from June 2018. This follows the findings of an informed giving survey conducted last year. The campaign is in addition to ongoing initiatives to promote safer giving and provide advisories on what to look out for and questions to ask in relation to online appeals. We will also ramp up our education efforts on safer giving, with targeted outreach to the elderly and working adults.
Third, we have the Code of Practice for Crowdfunding Platforms, which we have co-developed with key crowdfunding platforms to ensure a safer online giving environment. Launched in January this year by Minister, the Code of Practice will be implemented over the course of the year.
Minister Heng has pointed out that a good society is one with a spirit of caring, where we all feel responsibility towards each other.
Looking ahead, MCCY will continue to work closely with our partners and fellow Singaporeans to make Singapore a caring and inclusive home. Thank you.