According to Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the government must simplify the processes for accessing support schemes, in order to prevent people from experiencing more stress in times of financial difficulty. Tharman made these remarks at a book launch on Tuesday, November 27, adding that this is what the government is already doing.
Today Online reports that DPM also said that it’s the different agencies who should be doing back-end coordination amongst themselves rather than have individuals accomplish this—citing the coordination between Social Service Offices run by the Ministry of Social and Family Development which have connected systems, so that people applying have to undergo just one round of assessment of their finances.
Tharman was at the launch of “How Working Together Matters: Adversity, Aspiration, Action,” which analyzes how more than a thousand families temporarily living in Blocks 46 and 50 of Bedok South Avenue 3 were given assistance from 2012 and 2018.
The book’s editor, Singapore Management University’s Professor David Chan, said that he hopes that what they learned from the initiative could be applicable to other projects as well.
According to Tharman, this initiative known as Project 4650 proves that personal responsibility and collective action are not contradictory. “They are really a compact: How we go about exercising collective action, how we go about engaging with individuals and families in difficulty, determines in a very important way, whether they are able to take charge of their lives, build up the confidence and develop their own success in a way that preserves dignity and preserves their pride.”
By April 2018, the families who were part of Project 4650 are now in permanent homes. Almost fifty percent of the families have been able to buy new HDB apartments, and the majority among them took out loans from the HDB, and Blocks 46 and 50 are not used anymore.
Tharman also noted that the government has concentrated on education and employment as crucial to its social strategy, as these would aid with social mobility and would alleviate inequality and allow people to recover from hard times faster.
Local MP Dr. Mohamad Maliki Osman says that the majority of the families from the project had to give up their homes in 2008 during the financial crash, and were sleeping on void decks and beaches.
He met the families in 2011 at a Meet-the-People session. “We soon realized that the complexity that they were undergoing was really tremendous. We realized that no one agency can help solve any of the problems that they are facing,” Dr. Maliki said.