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Speech by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Finance, at Care Corner 40th Anniversary Fundraising Dinner, 6 May 2022, 8.20pm at Orchard Hotel Singapore

06 May 2022

Mr Yong Lum Sung, Chairman of Care Corner
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.     I am very happy to join all of you this evening for Care Corner’s 40th anniversary charity gala dinner.

a.     As Lum Sung said just now, the anniversary event was supposed to be last year.

b.     Unfortunately, it could not happen then because of all the safe management measures that were in place.

c.     But as we all know, the best things in life are always worth waiting for. I’m glad we are able to have this celebration tonight. As we reflect on all that we have been through over these past two difficult years, it suffices to say that there is a lot that we should be grateful for, and a lot to be thankful for. It is good to see all of you in this room having dinner together, taking in the energy, atmosphere and the spirit of everyone.

d.     Also, to see such a large turn out! In fact, I understand that it is the largest turnout ever for Care Corner’s anniversary dinner, so thank you everyone for your support.

2.     I was invited to be the patron of Care Corner three years ago by Gan Kim Yong, one of your co-founders. This was in 2019, before I became closely associated with him for another reason. I am sure he had no idea we would be closely associated due to Covid-19 when he asked me to take over him as patron. Since then, I have met many Board members, staff and volunteers of Care Corner. I have always been struck by your commitment, dedication, and passion to provide the best care to the disadvantaged. I’ve seen how many of you have gone the extra mile, especially during these last two years of Covid-19, to reach out to those in need and to support them through those tough times. From children and youth, to families and seniors, Care Corner has truly made a huge impact on our community. A big thank you to the pioneering leaders, the Board members, management, staff and all the volunteers at Care Corner, especially over the last two years of the pandemic. Thank you very much!  

3.     Not many organisations in Singapore can comprehensively cover such a wide range of services and do them well. So it is also very fitting that Care Corner will be conferred the ASEAN Rural Development and Poverty Eradication (RDPE) leadership award later this month. Congratulations!

a.     It is truly a fitting acknowledgement of how far Care Corner has come as it celebrates its 40th year.

b.     And a testament once again to all the hard work of all the partners and staff who have journeyed with Care Corner all these years.

4.     Indeed, Care Corner has had an amazing 40-year journey. Those of you who have been through these 40 years will know what a transformation it has been. You started out from humble beginnings in the 1980s, offering counselling services to lower-income workers via just a phone hotline. Now, you have more than 40 service points across the island, offering a wide range of programmes, and truly fulfilling your mission of providing care to every corner in Singapore.

5.     Like Care Corner, Singapore too has transformed over the past 40 years.

a.     Back when Care Corner started, we were still building HDB towns like Bishan and Tampines, while resettling farmers and squatter communities;

b.     We were also grappling with school attrition rates that were as high as one third every cohort – One third of dropouts every cohort.

6.     Today, of course, the situation is very different. Singaporeans enjoy a higher standard of living, vast majority can expect to finish school and look forward to meaningful opportunities, and to own their own homes.

7.     But despite our success, we continue to face new social challenges.

a.     In particular, social mobility is becoming more difficult to achieve, as our society and economy matures. The more well-to-do parents will understandably spend more resources to prepare their children at an early age. But those who are less well-off will then feel the pressure to keep up and will be concerned that their children will be left behind.

b.     Apart from this, our population too is also ageing rapidly. Declining family sizes over the decades means greater stress on the family as the care needs of our seniors increase.

8.     The Government clearly has a role to play in dealing with these social challenges and stresses. That is why we have been making major moves in recent years to uplift lower wage workers, provide better care for the elderly and to support our vulnerable groups. We have also been investing heavily in pre-school to ensure every child gets a good start in life, regardless of their backgrounds.  

9.     The Government will continue to do more. As I have mentioned recently, we will be starting an exercise soon to see how we can renew and strengthen our social compact for the post pandemic world. In particular, that will mean strengthening our safety nets, keeping paths open for upward mobility and ensuring that our society stays mobile. But we cannot solve our problems solely through state initiatives and more Government alone. I wish it could be done like that but all of us know that is not the solution. More Government does not mean all the problems will disappear. Sometimes more Government can make problems worse too. Government schemes will never be able to replace the warmth and the personal touch of community groups and volunteers. Community organisations like Care Corner do play a crucial role to complement the Government’s efforts. Indeed, an important part of our renewed and refreshed social compact is not just about what the Government can do for people, but what all of us can and must do together, helping one another and working together for the common good.

10.     In fact, our most effective social programmes and interventions in Singapore are achieved through partnerships. I am very glad that Lum Sung said just now that one of the key priorities for Care Corner is “Collaboration, collaboration and collaboration”.

a.     Care Corner’s own Circle of Care programme illustrates this.

b.     It is a programme to facilitate the transition of disadvantaged children from preschool to primary school and provide them with learning and development support. This programme arose from a partnership between Care Corner and Lien Foundation in 2013, and has since grown to include other partners like the National University Health System (NUHS), several schools and the Quantedge Foundation.  

c.     Under the programme now, you have social workers working with educational therapists, health specialists, teachers, and principals, all as one interdisciplinary team, and achieving good outcomes.

11.     This partnership approach works, and it is extremely important as our social needs are also getting more complex. The issues are not so easy to resolve, especially if you talk to social workers on the ground when they interact with residents who need help. The social workers know that these issues are not easy. They cannot be solved with standardised schemes, or by any one single organisation. This is because many of those who require help often have to grapple with multiple issues at the same time. It is not just financial challenges, it could be caregiving stress, mental health issues, unstable family relationships, and often, many issues all at the same time.

a.     Take for example uplifting the children from low-income families. We want to do this, but no single organisation has the expertise to do this well. It requires a concerted effort from different stakeholders - social workers, teachers and principals, as well as parents.

12.     We must redouble our efforts to synergise our work and pool together our resources to develop customised approaches to suit the circumstances and needs of individuals and families.

13.     Increasingly, the strength of our partnerships will determine our ability to achieve successful outcomes in our social interventions and programmes. Through strong partnerships, we can all work together to uplift the vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in our society, do our part for the common good and meet our society’s needs. But more importantly, it is the spirit of fellowship and mutual support that will be crucial in taking Singapore forward.

14.     Finally, of course, I must acknowledge one important group of partners tonight – Care Corner’s donors and corporate partners

a.     Your support has been crucial to sustaining Care Corner’s important work over the years. Care Corner would not have reached its milestone today without you

b.     To date, the Together We RISE campaign, I understand that Care Corner has raised an estimated $850,000; this is not just what you have raised, because there is Government matching too. When you donate, the Government matches your donation, doubling your money to help many more Singaporeans in need.

c.     Thank you all for your continued support and generosity!

15.     In conclusion, it has been 40 years since Care Corner was established, but your work continues to be vital to Singapore.

a.     Through exemplary passion and commitment, Care Corner has impacted countless Singaporeans over the years.

b.     Nobody knows what the next 40 years will be like, but I am confident that we will continue to thrive and flourish so long as we continue to stand together as one united people.

c.     I look forward to many more decades of partnership with Care Corner, as we work together to build a better Singapore.

d.     Thank you very much, and enjoy your dinner.