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Speech By Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister & Minister For Finance & Minister For Manpower At The South West Comcare Local Network Anniversary Dinner Cum Comcare Awards 2012

21 Mar 2012

My Parliamentary Colleagues,

Mayor Amy Khor;

Minister of State Lawrence Wong;

Advisers David Ong and Desmond Lee;

South West ComCare Local Network Members,

Community Leaders,

Community & Corporate Partners,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening. It gives me great pleasure to join you this evening to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the South West ComCare Local Network.

Background of South West ComCare Local Network

2.   South West ComCare Local Network (CLN) was initiated by South West Community Development Council (CDC) in 2007 to facilitate better communication among social service agencies in the district and establish seamless information and referral process between agencies, to ensure that all needy residents receive timely and effective assistance.

3.   The concerted efforts of community and help agencies, including Grassroots Organisations (GROs), Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs), schools, government agencies and corporate partners, are critical to the success of these objectives.

4.   Five (5) years on, we have made significant headway in the number of partners engaged by the South West CLN ; and more importantly the awareness among volunteers and multiple agencies that a phone call, email or SMS will bring timely assistance from the CDC.

5.   A simple example. During one of my house visits last year, I found an elderly lady in a rental flat in Taman Jurong whose cabinets in her kitchen had fallen off, bringing down with them the oven as well as the storage space. One of our grassroots leaders got in touch with the CDC via email.  Within a day, the South West CLN Secretariat roped in a corporate partner to sponsor the cost of the renovation.   My grassroots leaders got a renovation company to replace the damaged cabinets with new ones. On the day of the renovation, students from Singapore Polytechnic came in to clean up and repaint the affected areas. It was an example demonstrates of how we can work together, bring in volunteers, and solve a resident’s problem. In this case, all within a few days.

6.   The challenge ahead is to improve and enhance these processes to be more resident-centric and provide more holistic assistance to those in need.

7.   Over the years the CDCs have individually and collectively worked with the Grassroots Organisations, self-help groups, VWOs and various stakeholders in the community to ensure that people who need help know where to get assistance, such as through our newsletter, mailers, banners, posters and the setting up of a ComCare hotline.  Despite this, there are residents who still do not know where to get help or think it might be too difficult to get help.  Some say that they have to go to different agencies to get help for their different problems, provide the same information and be subjected to a number of interviews, making it all tedious and difficult.

8.   In response to the feedback, the South West CDC launched our South West Assistance Guide last month, which will be distributed to households in the South West District. The guide informs residents where they can go in order to get assistance, and get it conveniently.  Some 1,000 trained volunteers will visit all HDB households to distribute and explain the South West Assistance Guide to residents.  In addition, the CDC will also launch the SW Cares initiative this evening to further streamline and enhance our information and referral protocol and provide more timely and client centric assistance to needy residents.

9.   This evening, the CDC will be launching an Agreement, together with 40 partners comprising GROs, Family Service Centres, self-help groups and other help agencies operating in the district under the South West Cares.  The Agreement comprises three (3) components. Firstly, all partners of the Agreement will adopt a single integrated registration and referral form, where residents seeking help need only fill up one (1) form, for evaluation of their assistance application.  Only one (1) interview will be conducted at a single source unless additional information is required.  Information received from the interview will also be shared with other help agencies and partners, should the resident require further assistance.

10.   Residents will thus not be required to repeat the same information or their situation again or fill up multiple registration forms when they are referred to other help agencies. This streamlining of assistance and referral protocol, and the use of a common referral form, will help minimise time taken for interviews and evaluation of assistance applications, hence providing more timely, holistic and resident-centric assistance to those in need.

11.   Secondly, the partners will appoint representatives called care coordinators to form a network to coordinate and track referrals across different help agencies to ensure that the loop is closed. The care coordinators will be engaged on a monthly basis, to discuss the cases that have been referred, share knowledge and information on assistance programmes and schemes and leverage on one another's resources to help needy residents.

12.   Thirdly, the partners and volunteers across the district will help to disseminate the ground-up multi-lingual and illustrated South West Assistance Guide to raise awareness of help services and agencies in the community and dispel myths about seeking assistance from the CDC.

13.   This represents a major step-up in commitment for the South West CLN and partners of the Agreement to further streamline assistance reduce assessment time for assistance applications and improve efficiency of assistance schemes.

ComCare Awards 2012 - Recognising the Efforts of Individuals

14.   Tonight, we will also celebrate the achievements of nine (9) outstanding individuals, grassroots leaders and social service workers who made a difference in the lives of those they helped. Among them, five (5) individuals will be presented with the South West ComCare Awards.

15.   One (1) of the nominees, Mr Roland Choo from Taman Jurong division, is known to put heart and soul into every case of a family needing help. An example is how he developed a close friendship with a family of three (3), who went through a difficult period as a range of illnesses hit the family. The father suffered from dementia and Parkinson's disease; and the daughter suffered from diabetes and depression. The family even contemplated suicide. Apart from lending listening ears and providing encouragement to the family, Roland accompanied the family for their medical appointments and worked with many community partners including the CDC, medical social workers, family service centres, HDB and town council to help the family resolve their many problems.

16.   Another nominee, Mr Benjamin Teo, is a social worker at Clementi Student Care Service specialising in youth-related programmes. He is also a football coach and mentor to a group of youths from ACE football team, a youth development and intervention programme. Participants of the programme not only won sporting accolades but also developed their self-confidence and character through Mr Teo's guidance in the programme. Some of the youths were also glad they were able to channel their energy and attention towards football and thus steered away from trouble.

17.   Each of the nominees today is a sterling example to each and every one of us to go the extra mile to help residents in need. I congratulate all of them.

Conclusion – Building an Inclusive Society

18.   All our winners and finalists today exemplify what it means to build an inclusive society where the more able pitch in and see it as their responsibility to help the less able. I am confident that with the concerted efforts of all of you present today, we will be able to build an inclusive Southwest in an inclusive Singapore. On behalf of Mayor Amy Khor and my Parliamentary colleagues, I would also like to thank every one of you here who have volunteered your time and resources to uplift the lives of our needy residents.

19.   Have a wonderful evening ahead.