Singapore

Schools referred about 900 kids to family service centres last year

Ministries boost support given to schoolchildren in vulnerable families

Something was bothering the primary school pupil.

So when she confided in her school counsellor she was afraid of her older brother because he had been rough with her, the school alerted Fei Yue Community Services' Family Service Centre in Choa Chu Kang.

Social worker Lin Feng was then roped in to investigate because the school feared there could be incidents of violence in the girl's home.

But Mr Lin learnt it was a one-off incident, and the parents were alerted to prevent a repeat of the incident.

Thanks to a protocol first piloted towards the end of 2014, schools know how and when to refer schoolchildren, and their families, to family service centres and social service offices.

Family service centres are run by charities and they provide counselling and other aid to families, while social service offices are government-run and administer government financial aid schemes to the needy.

Mr Desmond Lee, the Minister for Social and Family Development (MSF), said earlier this month the referral protocol was jointly developed with the Education Ministry.

The two ministries had been exploring ways to boost the support given to schoolchildren from vulnerable families who could be facing multiple problems and were in need of support from various agencies.

ANTI-SOCIAL

Some of the youth also showed anti-social behaviour.

Once such a child is identified, the school contacts the parents to get consent to refer them to a family service centre.

The centre then works with the family to learn about the challenges and finds ways to alleviate or help them cope with it.

To date, 208 schools have adopted the referral protocol which will be rolled out to all schools by the end of the year.

Last year, schools referred about 900 cases to family service centres and social service offices to address parenting and financial issues, and youth behavioural problems.

The referral protocol is part of the MSF's move to boost the delivery of social services so the needy can get appropriate help.

The protocol is also useful as it sets common standards.

That way, everyone in the system - from school staff to social workers - knows what to do when they come across a student who needs help, said Mr Ian Peterson, cluster director of family and community services at Care Corner Singapore.

With better co-ordination between schools and family service centres, more families can be saved from falling through the cracks, he added.

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