Singapore

MPs propose agency for needy kids, networks to help vulnerable

A specialised children's agency and beefed-up counselling resources were among the proposals raised by MPs yesterday to help vulnerable individuals and ensure they get the support they need amid the current crisis and beyond.

Mr Don Wee (Chua Chu Kang GRC) called for an equivalent of the Agency for Integrated Care - which supports seniors and their caregivers - to supervise, mentor and foster underprivileged children.

Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) suggested the Government support vulnerable families by channelling more resources into counselling services and mutual support networks backed by experienced professionals and other community partners.

Both MPs were speaking during the debate on the Government's strategy to emerge stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Wee, a first-term MP, noted that children in Singapore already have a right to living necessities, education and healthcare.

"What we need is effective oversight for children in low-income families to ensure they are receiving these essentials," he said.

"In a knowledge-intensive future, these children will not stand a chance if they live in overcrowded flats with access to borrowed equipment, limited or slow connectivity, and minimal adult supervision and guidance."

The state must be prepared to intervene more, and the earlier the better, added Mr Wee.

"For example, if the adults in the families pass away or are imprisoned, the state must step in to protect and provide for these kids. Children unaccounted for must be traced. Schools should alert relevant agencies when children do not seem to cope well."

Ms Pereira emphasised the importance of the Government letting vulnerable families know they are not alone, by creating networks for them to get tips and encouragement from professionals and community partners alike.

She also urged additional help for the "sandwiched" class - in particular, young families who might have been starting out in their careers when the pandemic struck.

COMMUNITY ISSUES