SINGAPORE – During the debate on the budget for the Ministry of Social and Family Development on Friday (March 5), MPs called for coordinated community initiatives and accessibility to social services. They also noted the stress that the Covid-19 pandemic has placed on families.
Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC)
Better coordinate community initiatives
Ms Phua noted that on the long weekend before Chinese New Year, she met groups distributing lunch bento boxes to the same group of rental residents. She said: “A common sight on the ground especially in rental housing estates is an overlap of services such as free distribution of food, masks and groceries; health screening and home cleaning.”
She asked if there was an effective way of coordinating such initiatives so there is less wastage and better allocation of precious resources.
Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC)
Have mini social service offices
To make it easier for families and persons in need to seek help, Ms Pereira suggested mini social service offices (SSOs) in areas with rental blocks, where most residents who need help reside.
“The mini SSOs can pull in the necessary resources from the neighbourhood or nearby precincts to help the varied needs of these vulnerable families and provide them with holistic assistance,” she said. “Help can be more targeted as they cater to these few rental blocks.”
Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (Chua Chu Kang GRC)
Look beyond family violence
Economic hardships are a trigger for more abuse in a relationship, Mr Zhulkarnain said.
“During this pandemic, many survivors of domestic violence feel that they can no longer seek refuge at the home of a friend or relative, for fear they could expose them to the virus,” he added.
He asked if the taskforce on family violence would look beyond family violence to include violence against intimate partners and vulnerable groups like domestic workers and the elderly.
Melvin Yong (Radin Mas)
Effect of pandemic on marriages
Mr Yong asked if the ministry can examine ways to help couples identify early signs of marriage distress and help resolve such marital issues earlier.
“I worry that the stress and anxiety from the prolonged pandemic might cause a further deterioration of relations in unstable marriages,” he said.
In cases where it is not possible to save the marriage, Mr Yong asked the ministry what its plans were to mitigate the impact of divorce on children.
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