Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at the 2018 Committee of Supply debate
07 March 2018
A society of caring people
Mr Chairman, with your permission, I will display some slides.
Many Singaporeans agree that Singapore is a caring and cohesive society, but there is still much more that we can do to be a caring people. MCCY will work with community and corporate partners, along with MSF and MOH to support SG Cares. In line with Dr Lily Neo’s suggestion, we want to foster a culture of consideration and contribution, where every citizen is ready to step forward, engage in service to others, and contribute to build a better home for all Singaporeans.
Our Pioneer Generation embodies this spirit of giving. When Singapore was finding its feet as a young nation, they made sacrifices to build a better future for all. They exemplified the ‘kampong’ spirit so vital to nation building. Today, many are still doing their part to help fellow Singaporeans.
Take 73-year old Mdm Jumiah Yunos for example. Recognising that seniors tend to stay at home most of the time, Mdm Jumiah started giving qigong lessons in 2013 to promote healthy living in her neighbourhood. She takes what she has learnt from her qigong master, and teaches a group of up to 50 residents in easy-to-follow qigong exercises. With her nursing experience, she also shares tips for healthy living with them. Mdm Jumiah’s qigong lessons have encouraged neighbours to bond and stay active together. It is so useful for the elderly to have an exercise regime close to their homes, in a small group. I think it’s an ideal way for them to keep active at their retirement age.
We want this giving spirit to be passed on to each succeeding generation. To support MSF’s efforts to enhance social service delivery on the ground through its Social Service Offices (SSOs), and MOH’s expansion of the Community Networks for Seniors (CNS) and repositioned Silver Generation Office, we now need more volunteers than ever to address our growing social and healthcare needs.
As Ms Tin Pei Ling shared, there are many passionate Singaporeans volunteering, whether through formal or informal ways. Yet, there are also many others who are willing, but do not know where, or who, or how to help. Some may not know what the available volunteering opportunities are or where the needs are in their local community. Some may only have little time to give because of work and family commitments. Others could be too shy to approach neighbours who seem to need help. These are some of the barriers that stop us from reaching out to help and do our part.
Through SG Cares, we hope to break down these barriers. We want to create a society where everyone both gives and receives the care and support they need. We want Singaporeans to enjoy a culture of neighbourliness and rekindle the ‘kampong spirit’ within our communities. My colleagues and I believe this is possible if we all do our part to help our neighbours, nurture our youth and serve our seniors, so that no one is left behind.
Grow and support community of volunteers
As part of the SG Cares movement, my Ministry will work through corporates and the community while leveraging technology to make it easier and more meaningful for a person to volunteer.
We will focus our efforts on encouraging corporate Singapore to step forward and do its part. As Dr Lim Wee Kiak pointed out, corporates must be key players in the field of volunteerism. Many of us spend significant hours at work and want to work with a company that does good for society.
Corporates have the ability to organise and mobilise their employees for social good through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Once we leave school and enter the workforce, we volunteer a lot less often because there are other competing priorities. But through organised CSR activities that are scheduled around our work commitments, we can continue to do our part.
One example is the partnership between POSB and NTUC Health. NTUC Health is a social enterprise that provides health and eldercare services. And POSB, as you know, is a bank with a network of branches. So by adopting flexible volunteer hours, and matching employees to a NTUC Health nursing home close to the POSB branches they work at, this partnership saw POSB employees conducting bi-weekly activities, such as morning exercise therapy and breakfast with residents, at NTUC Health nursing homes. This has brought joy to the residents, and helped POSB employees grow a sense of pride in their company and a sense of compassion for our frail elderly.
We will continue to help companies in their CSR journey, through the Company of Good, a programme by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) to help companies give more strategically, sustainably and meaningfully. Since its inception in 2016, we have close to 1,000 companies on board. As part of this programme, we will grow corporate leaders for giving under the Company of Good Fellowship. In this 5-month programme, corporate giving advocates across companies come together to share good practices and develop proposals for more impactful corporate giving. One participating corporate is Fullerton Hotel. Putting its proposal into action, it launched the Fullerton Academy last month. The Academy mobilises hotel staff and partners as volunteers to provide training for youth from REACH Community Services in areas such as culinary, etiquette and creative arts, that will help prepare them for future employment.
We will also work through the Community Development Councils (CDCs). With a good understanding of the needs on the ground as well as their networks of community partners, the CDCs can help to connect corporates to local CSR opportunities.
Strengthening the community
Ms Tin also reminded us of the need to organise volunteer opportunities better so that busy Singaporeans can just 'plug and play', making it convenient to do good. Community needs can be made bite-sized and flexible, so that more Singaporeans can get involved whatever their skills, interests and commitments may be, in their current life stage.
We are seeing an increasing trend of micro-volunteerism in Singapore – volunteerism broken into discrete tasks with flexible commitments, allowing on-the-go Singaporeans to slot doing good into their busy schedules. We are studying the landscape and will work with partners to explore new ways to organise tasks that will enable neighbours to help one another and take care of their neighbourhood. This will enable more Singaporeans to be involved, and feel a greater sense of ownership for the community they live in.
Additionally, NCSS has been working with social service organisations to restructure roles, ensuring that they are both suitable for volunteers and meet the needs of the community. NCSS is also helping social service organisations build up capabilities to manage their volunteers well and deploy them meaningfully – so they feel that they are not "just another volunteer", but someone who is making a difference to the community.
Dr Lim asked about the use of technology to support people in nurturing a caring civic culture. Today, about 50% of Singaporeans are already familiar with online giving, and 25% actively support charitable social media campaigns. Technology has made it easy and convenient for us to provide quick help, collaborate and form community.
We will study how to harness the power of technology for social good, and provide a one-stop avenue that Dr Neo spoke about, where Singaporeans, especially those with the desire to help but do not know where or how to start, can easily find volunteering opportunities.
The recently launched SG Cares app is a good start. It is a free mobile app that enables everyone to be plugged into the community of volunteers and opportunities. We will continue to enhance the application to provide a good user experience and build a social network where volunteers can share experiences, learn from one another and serve the community together.
With technology, we can reach out to show we care, at the touch of our fingertips.
Piecing it together
Dr Lim spoke about the good work that many are doing on the ground. We are fortunate to have many helping hands in the community. But, as Minister Heng aptly puts it, "our many helping hands need to work hand-in-hand."
Under SG Cares, one role for Government is to facilitate better coordination between the various helping hands - NVPC, NCSS, social and healthcare organisations, corporates and the community – so that we can mobilise volunteers to meet needs on the ground. To do this, we have set up pilots in Bedok and Jurong East to bring partners together to co-develop coordination models that can be replicated in other towns.
In Jurong East, various stakeholders work together to serve the seniors in different ways. They are supported by a network of social service organisations with a central coordinator, in this case, Loving Heart Multi Service Centre. It receives referrals from grassroots networks and the SSO on seniors who require support, links up with partner organisations, refers residents to service providers, and mobilises community organisations and support. Partners such as St Luke’s ElderCare provides rehabilitation programmes; Touch Community Services ensures regular home visits and provides services such as counselling and transitional care from the hospital; and Thye Hua Kwan offers recreational activities and courses to keep the senior engaged and connected with the community. Loving Heart also engages volunteers from partner schools nearby to help in the Centre’s activities.
The SG Cares movement has helped to bring these stakeholders together, to map out the needs, the roles, the resources and areas where we need more volunteers. By combining our efforts and resources, we have a better picture of the needs in each community and how the various partners can work together to provide more seamless and citizen-centric support.
Say for example, a senior who has difficulty walking, living on his own, is discharged from the hospital. Understanding that the senior will require home medical and nursing care, a Medical Social Worker at the hospital refers him to the AIC, which gets him connected with the CNS.
A CNS coordinator will link up with the SSO and various social service organisations in his neighbourhood to provide coordinated assistance and support services to the senior. However, the CNS, SSO and social service organisations cannot address all his needs on their own.
This is where we, as neighbours and volunteers can step up and play our part. Everyone can contribute. You don’t need money, special skills or a lot of time. You just need a good heart.
If you are a sociable individual with time to spare, you can volunteer as a befriender to visit him monthly and check on how he is doing.
If you cannot volunteer regularly, you can still help with ad-hoc tasks, such as buying groceries or changing a light bulb. You can be alerted to these tasks through a tasking app if you live or work nearby.
If you’re volunteering as part of your company's CSR, you can get onto the "Meals-on-Wheels" roster and help deliver meals to him.
Or if you happen to be his neighbour, you can just drop by his home once in a while, to say “Hi” and to see if he needs any help.
Sir, my colleagues in MOH, MSF and MCCY are working together so that our social and healthcare agencies provide better coordinated services in partnership with the social service organisations on the ground. Just as importantly, we seek to enable fellow Singaporeans to step forward as caring citizens and good neighbours to bridge that last mile of care that only family, friends and community can provide.
At the end of the day, SG Cares is about the kind of society we wish to live in. We believe that a strong society is one that leaves no one behind, and one that focuses on helping the vulnerable amongst us. A strong society is also one where the civic spirit is strong and where citizens contribute to causes they believe in. MCCY has been working to mobilise volunteers through the arts, heritage, youth and sport through initiatives such as Team Nila, SportCares, HeritageCares and the Youth Corps. Through SG Cares, we seek to build a civic culture of care, consideration and contribution where all Singaporeans can work together for a better Singapore.