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MCYS SPEECH NO: 14/2007 DATE OF ISSUE: 08/03/2007

Speech by Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports at the Committee of Supply Sitting 2007, 8 March 2007 at 5.25 pm

1 Mdm, to be a first world nation, we need to build

up not only our economic and intellectual capital, but

also our social capital. Today, I will focus on the two

pillars of our social capital – the community and the

family. We must ensure that the community is fully

engaged in helping the less fortunate in our society. We

must also ensure that family ties remain strong. These

are the cornerstones of a resilient society.

Ensuring community engagement in the delivery of

ComCare

2 Let me start with ComCare. We have put in place

a government social assistance system that is effective

and flexible.

Effectiveness

3

Our Community Development Councils, or CDCs,

now

process

almost

90%

of

social

assistance

applications within six weeks. In contrast, prior to the

launch of ComCare in 2005, it was only about 40%. This

is a significant improvement.

4 At the same time, the CDCs have also ensured

assistance is given only to the genuinely needy. This

strengthens the spirit of self-reliance in our people.

Flexibility

5 Next,

ComCare

has

focused

on

increasing

flexibility in the delivery of social assistance. This is

because we recognise that for some, even 6 weeks may

be too long a wait. Hence, we set up the CCC ComCare

Fund so that the grassroots can provide help more

flexibly.

6 We should thank PA, CDC officers and CCC

volunteers for doing this difficult and important job so

well.

Engaging the community in the delivery of ComCare

7 What is the next step? As members are aware,

ComCare is short for Community Care. Going forward,

we will increase community engagement in helping the

less fortunate. First, we will support the Many Helping

Hands. Second, we will grow social enterprises. Finally,

we will catalyse the growth of a ComCare Volunteer

Movement.

Why the Many Helping Hands are important

8 Why are the Many Helping Hands important? A

few months ago, I visited the Ang Mo Kio Community

Care Network, or CCN. This is a local help network

comprising

grassroots

introduced to

the

case

leaders

of

Mr

and

James

VWOs.

I

was

Soh. He was

suffering from a disease that made his skin itch and peel.

He lived alone in a dirty one room flat, surviving on $300

a

month from his brother. He was ashamed of his

condition, and only left his home when he had to eat.

9 A member of the CCN, Mr Bhajan Singh, chanced

upon him at a hawker centre. He and other members of

the CCN managed to coax Mr Soh into allowing them to

clean his flat and change his mattress, which was full of

bedbugs. Another volunteer visited him regularly to

coach him in personal hygiene. With their help, Mr Soh

has managed to integrate back into the community.

10 Recently, MPs like Mdm Ho Geok Choo have

called for the state to play a bigger role. Their intentions

are good. But can the government do what the Many

Helping Hands did for Mr Soh? Even if we had enough

civil servants to reach out to people like Mr Soh, we

would lose a great deal in the process. The passion of

people like Mr Singh, the human touch they bring, and

their capacity to befriend and help those truly in need—

we would lose all these. So, instead of replacing the

Many Helping Hands, my Ministry’s plan is to support

them. We will do so by making the system more client-

centric and increasing coordination between the helping

hands.

Making the system more client-centric

11

Mr

Michael

Palmer have asked whether it is

difficult for the needy to seek help. Let me emphasise

that the needy do not need to know the specifics of each

assistance programme. They only need to approach

their

CDCs,

grassroots

organisations

or

Family

Service Centres. These touch points will diagnose the

problem, identify the solution, and help put together the

right package of assistance.

12 Having said that, we will also step up our efforts to

create greater public awareness. For example, we will

set up a ComCare hotline to serve as a convenient

first-stop for those seeking help. We will announce the

hotline number later this year.

Greater coordination of the Many Helping Hands

13 To

increase

coordination

between

the

Many

Helping Hands, we have set up the ComCare Database.

Over

the

next

year

or

so,

MOE,

MOH

and

other

organisations will be coming on board to share data on

the needy they help. We will also consider allowing

interested

VWOs

that

administer

means-tested

programmes to join the database.

14
14

Next,

we

will

build

up

the

ComCare

Local

Networks, or CLNs. My Minister has elaborated on this.

15 We want to create even more partnerships with

the grassroots to reach out to and help the needy. Dr

Muhd Faishal Ibrahim has suggested this. We will also

take up Mayor Zainul Abidin’s suggestion to step up

training

for

grassroots

volunteers

providing social assistance.

involved

in

Social Enterprise

16 Through social enterprise, we can build up our

social capital by using business methods to achieve

social goals. Mr Sin Boon Ann and Ms Penny Low

have asked about our plans to support social enterprise.

17 Since

2003,

MCYS

has

supported

62

social

enterprises through the ComCare Enterprise Fund, 11 of

which

were

funded

in

FY06.

We

have

also

commissioned a study on the state of social enterprises

in Singapore.

Social Enterprise Committee

18 To further develop social enterprises in Singapore,

MCYS

has

formed

a

Social

Enterprise

Committee,

chaired by Mr Philip Yeo. It has two strategic goals.

Firstly,

to

promote

the

employment

of

needy

disadvantaged Singaporeans, in social enterprises and

other businesses. Secondly, to create a culture of social

entrepreneurship in Singapore.

19

To achieve this, the Committee will actively seek

the views of social enterprises, and the private and

people sectors. The Committee is targeting to complete

its recommendations after mid-2007. I would like to

thank my colleagues Ms Penny Low, one of the pioneers

of social enterprises in Singapore, and Ms Josephine

Teo for being part of this committee, and contributing to

the sector.

Supporting social enterprises

20 Let me explain our plans in more detail. Social

enterprises

provide

employment

and

training

opportunities for those who find it difficult to get a job.

One example is

a Simei Care Centre patient who

suffered from mental illness. Simei Care Centre gave

him a job at their social enterprise, Rejoice Printing. With

the

training

and

mentoring

this

printing

business

provided, he did well and regained his self-confidence.

He even went on to find a better paying job as a banquet

waiter at a hotel.

21 To create more job opportunities for the needy and

disadvantaged,

comprehensive

the

Committee

will

develop

a

funding

framework

and

business

support system for social enterprises.

Informal businesses

22 As

Mr

Wee

Siew

Kim

has

suggested,

some

Singaporeans have difficulties finding a regular job.

Setting up a micro-business may be one way for them

to become more self-reliant. Because many of them will

need help with business expertise and other relevant

skills, the ComCare

Enterprise Fund has funded a

number of social enterprises to help them start micro-

businesses.

23 We agree with Ms Josephine Teo that we also

need to provide more support for regular businesses

that want to hire the needy disadvantaged. There are

already

many

companies

that

do

so

today.

The

Committee

is

exploring

how

to

build

on

existing

initiatives to give such companies even more support

and recognition.

Strengthening volunteerism

24

Our

next

strategy

is

to

promote

community

involvement

in

helping

the

needy, by strengthening

volunteerism.

More skilled volunteers for VWOs

25 We agree with Mr Wee Siew Kim that the social

sector would benefit from having more volunteers with

professional

skills.

The

ComCare

Connection,

launched last month, will help increase the flow of

volunteers with private sector expertise to the social

sector. It will do so by creating partnerships between

companies that want to contribute more than just money,

and

VWOs

that

can

benefit

from

the

company’s

expertise.

There

are

already

12

companies

in

the

pipeline,

including

Starhub

and

ABN

Amro.

We

encourage more companies to come on board.

Promoting a ComCare Volunteer Movement

26 But we must look beyond professionals. When I

visited Tokyo’s Edogawa ward last year, the mayor told

me

that

each

and

every

resident in

the

city

was a

volunteer. I

am inspired by Edogawa, and join Ms

Eunice Olsen in wanting to see a movement to make

volunteerism a way of life for all Singaporeans.

27 For this to happen, we must recognise that each of

us, rich or poor, has something to contribute to our

fellow citizens. Small acts of kindness, like passing used

textbooks to the needy family upstairs, or dropping in on

an elderly neighbour once a week, can make a big

difference to the lives of others.

28 Take, for example, Mdm Monah binte Selamat, a

72

year-old

Public

Assistance

recipient

living

in

Queenstown. Despite her age and poor health, she

cooks

for

other

needy

elderly at Lions Befrienders

events

and

also

checks

in

on

elderly

neighbours

regularly.

29 We will work with NVPC and other organisations to

attract more volunteers like Mdm Monah.

Strengthening the ties that bind

30 Madam, even as we volunteer to help the less

fortunate, we must not forget those who are close to us

— our friends and families. They, too, form a vital part of

our social capital. In the past, our family members lived

under the same roof. Our friends lived in the same

kampong. These days, our friends and family members

are scattered all over the island and even the world. Yet

these relationships continue to be important and a

source of strength in difficult times.

Strong and stable families

Singapore families remain strong

31 The

most

important

relationships

are

with

our

families. I am heartened to note that the Singapore

family continues to be strong and healthy. More than

90% of respondents to a recent MCYS survey said they

have a close-knit family.

Challenges facing the family

32 However there are worrying trends. People are

marrying later

or

not

at

all. They are having

fewer

children. More marriages are ending in divorce. The

level of family support is decreasing due to smaller

families, an ageing population and more transnational

families.

33 Globalisation,

better

educational

and

career

prospects have given our people more opportunities and

lifestyle

choices.

Values

such

as

individualism

and

freedom

run

counter

to

the

unselfish,

long-term

commitment associated with marriage and parenthood.

34 Women in particular face a dilemma – to start a

family or pursue a career. Achieving both would involve

juggling the roles of wife, mother, daughter and worker.

Moreover, there is a lack of viable work options, like

flexible or part-time work, and good home support. The

recent

discussion

on

Super

Mums

highlights

this

challenge.

 

35

To

address

these

challenges,

my

Ministry

will

accelerate efforts to:

promote a pro-family environment,

facilitate work-life harmony, and

inculcate in our young the right values.

(A) Promoting a pro-family environment

36 First, we will promote a pro-family environment.

(i) Supporting parenthood – Baby Bonus

37 The Government has in place a holistic package to

support parenthood. Since 2001, more than 130,000

babies have benefited from the Baby Bonus scheme.

We extended Baby Bonus usage to MediShield and

Medisave-approved insurance in 2005. Soon, usage will

be extended to medical-related expenses.

(ii) Supporting parenthood – child care options

38 Parents have access to

a

range of child care

options. To enable home support, we have the Foreign

Domestic Worker Levy Concession and Grandparent

Caregiver tax relief.

39 My Ministry ensures a continuum of quality and

affordable care options. Mr Yeo Guat Kwang has asked

about this.

40 Child

care

centre

fees

have

remained

stable.

Parents can use their Baby Bonus to pay for fees at

child care centres and kindergartens. Infant care and

child care subsidies are also available for working mums.

We will continue to encourage childcare centres to

provide flexible programmes to cater to the diverse work

timings

and

care

arrangements

of

parents.

We

encourage them to extend operating hours and extend

flexible care arrangements to parents.

41 MOE and MCYS have been working together to

enhance the quality of early childhood education.

(iii) Supporting parenthood – adoption

42 Mr Wee Siew Kim has asked about facilitating the

adoption of children. Last year, about 400 Singaporean

couples adopted children. Given the small numbers,

adoption will not solve our population challenge.

43 To protect the interests of the

child, we need

safeguards like the Dependent’s Pass and Security

Bond.

(iv) Incentivising parenthood within marriage

44 Mr Siew Kum Hong has asked whether benefits

such as the third-month of paid maternity leave and

Baby Bonus could be extended to single mothers so that

their children are not disadvantaged.

45

Single unwed mothers are not a large group. About

500

children are registered without the father’s name

annually. Single mothers are entitled to 12 weeks of

maternity leave under the Employment Act, of which

eight weeks are paid for by the employer for first and

second births. They also qualify for Foreign Domestic

Worker Levy Concession, Childcare Leave, and can rent

or buy a HDB flat with their parents, or a single if they

are aged 35 and above.

46 Their children are eligible for centre-based child

care and infant care subsidies. They pay the same

school fees, enjoy Edusave grants and qualify for the

same scholarships and bursaries. No Singaporean child

will be denied an education due to the circumstances of

his birth.

47 The

Marriage

and

Parenthood

Package

is

an

incentive

for

married

couples.

It

is

not

a

financial

assistance

scheme

for

children.

The

Government

cannot and should not be the surrogate father.

(v) Supporting marriages – encouraging them

48 To

encourage

marriages,

my

Ministry

partners

universities, the community and businesses to facilitate

social

interaction

opportunities

for

singles.

SDU

is

professionalising the dating industry to ensure standards

remain high with the entrance of more private sector

players.

49 To provide greater assurance to singles, I am

pleased to announce the formation of an Accreditation

Council

to

advise

on

accreditation

standards

and

processes, and to be the approving authority for dating

companies and practitioners seeking accreditation. The

Council

is

chaired

by

Associate

Professor

Paulin

Straughan, Vice-Dean of NUS’ Faculty of Arts and

Social Sciences. Details of the accreditation framework

will be announced later this year.

50 SDU launched the Partner Connection Fund to

seed fund creative private sector initiatives for singles to

meet that special someone. SDU has received some

interesting proposals, and three have been approved so

far. I thank Ms Eunice Olsen for serving on the Fund’s

evaluation panel.

(vi) Supporting marriages – strengthening them

51 Besides encouraging people to get married, we

need to strengthen marriages. The National Family

Council or NFC is working with partners to explore

setting up marriage resource points, starting with one

at the Registry of Marriages. Information on marriage

preparation

and

enrichment

programmes,

and

counselling services will be provided in an informal

setting.

(vii) Pro-family environment – 3P partnership

52 Indeed, building a pro-family environment cannot

be done by my Ministry alone. We need the support of

the people, private and public sectors, or a 3P approach.

Like the National Family Council, many have joined us

in this endeavour – there are over 1,400 Family Life

Ambassadors

made

up

of

businesses,

unions,

and

NGOs, 84 Family Life Champions and over 850 Deputy

Registrars of Marriages in the community. More than

250 institutes offer the School Family Education and

Parent Education in Pre-school programmes. And over

2,500 business outlets have adopted the Pro-Family

Business Pledge. This is truly the Many Helping Hands.

(viii) Pro-family environment – role of businesses

53 This Pledge is an innovative idea of the people-

sector led Pro-Family Business Initiative, which Ms

Penny Low is a member of. Businesses are encouraged

to cater to families. We believe this is the first of its kind

in Asia. In addition, the Pro-Family Business Mark was

introduced last October. This is a national assessment

to

give

recognition

to

exemplary

organisations.

In

January, my Minister announced the $2 million Pro-

Family Business Grant to encourage more businesses

to be pro-family. There is value in catering to families as

a key customer group.

(ix) Pro-family environment – role of public agencies

54 As the public sector, Government agencies should

be mindful of the impact their policies have on families.

For example, family-friendly infrastructure should be part

of the Housing Development Board, Land Transport

Authority

and

Urban

planning considerations.

Redevelopment

Authority’s

(B) Facilitate work-life harmony

55

With more dual-income families, fathers should

lend

their

support

to

child

care

and

household

responsibilities.

Thus,

having

work-life

harmony

is

necessary for women and men alike.

56 A recent survey conducted by my Ministry found

that respondents wanted flexibility in terms of when they

work, where they work and the ability to work part-time.

The study concluded that organisations that help staff

harmonise

their

work,

family

and

personal

responsibilities see increases in staff productivity and

retention. I am glad Mdm Halimah and the NTUC have

launched the ‘Back to Work’ programme, to encourage

flexible work arrangements, part-time jobs and working

from home.

57 Presently, work-life strategy at workplaces is being

promoted by the Tripartite Committee chaired by Mr

Hawazi, of which MCYS is an active member. Together,

we will continue to engage employers, particularly CEOs

and HR Directors, and the unions. MCYS will press on

with equipping individuals with the skills to achieve

personal work-life effectiveness.

58 I will now speak in Mandarin on inculcating our

young with the right values.

(C) 心件工程:-- 灌输正确的家庭价值观

59 议长先生: 关于建立亲家庭环境所面对的

挑战,刚才我用英语发言时已讲了许多.现在不

再重复. 我现在要讲的重点是心件工程:-- 灌输

正确的家庭价值观.我将从三方面来探讨这个

问题.

家庭,学校与社会如何加强合作,灌输家庭

价值观

因为年轻人不喜欢说教,我们要检讨及增

加采取新的做法: 和志愿团体合作,让年轻

人或学童自小就 耳濡目染,亲身体验

小孩为伴的乐趣. 现在因为核心家庭的增

加,年轻人没有这么多机会与小孩子相

处。

鼓励家庭,父母,祖父母及亲戚朋友给予年

轻人支持.让他们有信心成立家庭并养育

儿女.

建立一个亲家庭的环境--在软件与心件方面下

工夫

60 建立一个亲家庭的环境不仅需要有硬件的

支持,更要在软件与心件方面下工夫. 过去,

们讲成家立业,现在反而是立业成家。我们以

前要结婚生孩子之前不会问是否有房子的问题,

生小孩是否有婴儿花红,是否养得起的问题。

结婚生孩子是人生自然的过程.

向年轻的国人灌输珍惜与重视家庭与亲情的观

61 今天年轻人有许多的机会, 许多外国媒体

对好些 单身贵族所过的 美好生活大肆报

, 给年轻人灌输了一些追求个人主义,自由主

义及在事业上要求自我实现等价值观念.为了

生存,这并没有错。可是这种价值观仍然与天

长地久, 山盟海誓的长期婚姻的承诺及克尽父

母天职相互矛盾.因此,我们应从家庭开始着手

灌输珍惜与重视家庭与亲情的观念. 我们不应

该认为因为孩子读的书多,身为父母的就可以

放弃灌输正确价值观的责任。其实,家长吃的

盐还是比孩子吃的饭多。

灌输家庭价值观由家里做起

62 议员黄守金先生在谈到 钥匙儿童

感需要时也表达了同样的关心. 这种重视家

庭与亲情的道德价值观念的培养必须由家庭开

始而不能假手于他人.

学校应强化家庭价值观的教育

63 学校除了教导知识与生活的技能以外,

应强化家庭价值观的教育。教育部长与财政第

二部长,尚达曼先生已经同意,让教育部门与

社青体部携手合作.

通过亲身体验的方法,培养对家庭价值观的重

64 我们固然可以教导价值观,但有时个人亲

身的经历更为有效. I Love Children (我爱小孩)

这个志愿机构主要是鼓励更多的夫妻考虑生儿

育女及珍惜儿女. 这个机构的主席曾对我说过

有位妇女在观赏了他们所制作的关于孩子的片

子后,触动了 母爱的天性”, 而去生育小孩.

个机构也将推出一辆 我爱小孩的流动巴士,

宣扬孩子带给家庭的欢乐并提倡如何为人父

母。

65 我们应该与志愿组合同心协力,利用非传

统方式来与年轻人分享生儿育女的乐趣。譬如

说,我们能带婴儿到学校,联络所等地方,让

年轻人抱一抱,让他们体会小孩子到底有多可

爱。我们也可以在学校活动里,让学生有机会

扮演父亲,母亲,祖父,祖母,新娘新郎等不

同角色,让他们更深刻地了解身为家庭成员的

乐趣。

66 还有位原本不喜欢小孩却爱养宠物的女士,

有一天在给宠物接生时, 才忽然觉悟到小生命

的可爱,促使她去生育孩子.

鼓励家庭,父母,祖父母及亲戚朋友给予年轻人

支持

67 过去, 如果我们的亲戚朋友中有人超过一

定年龄仍然未娶或未嫁, 家中的长辈就会表示

关心, 利用各种机会让他们结交异性朋友甚至

相亲”.

68 随着 核心家庭的增加, 大家庭的减少,

我们已无法回到好几代人同住在一屋檐下的年

,但传统的大家庭仍可扮演重要的角色.除了

介绍对象,也可和年轻的亲戚分享结婚与为人

父母的喜悦或协助看顾孩子.我们要鼓励成立

更多的 邻里家庭或家庭网络,鼓励大家庭的

亲戚们 毗邻而居”.这是我们东方的优良传统

与优势,也是新加坡独有的特色.

69 让我用个例子说明政府及祖父母对亲家庭

的支持. 我有位基层支持者,她是政府部门的雇

员也是位育有两名可爱年幼子女的母亲.当她

生育了第一胎, 她要求 部分时间工作以便有

更多的时间照顾孩子, 她在职的机构很爽快地

答应了她的请求. 她也很幸运获得父母的支持,

帮她照顾孩子.她的父母都退而不休在家里办

.

70

The decision to

start a

children

to

have,

and

the

family, the number of

division

of

household

responsibilities are personal decisions to be made by

each Singaporean. On the part of the Government, we

will work towards bringing more joy and less stress to

parenthood to give couples the confidence to manage

family and career. With the public, private and people

sectors working togetherI am confident that we can

create a family-friendly nation.

Conclusion

71 Sir, even though social capital cannot be seen or

touched,

it

is

everywhere—in

our

homes,

schools,

coffeeshops, and workplaces. As we forge ahead as a

nation, we must continuously invest in this important

foundation. All of us must play our part to support,

strengthen and develop them.