Support for young families, caregivers among family plan ideas

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SINGAPORE – More support for families of people with intellectual disabilities, de-stigmatization of existing marital support programs and affordable childcare for single parents are among suggestions put forward by the public and various groups to promote a more supportive Singapore to families.

They were brought up at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) in a series of 10 engagement sessions it held in June and July as part of the Alliance for Action to Strengthen Marriages and Family Relations (Afam), to help the ministry develop the Made for Families plan.

Unveiled by Social and Family Development Minister Masagos Zulkifli during the budget debate in March and due for release in November, the plan will outline Singapore society’s commitment and support to families.

Asked on Saturday July 30 what Singaporeans can expect from the plan, Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling said single parents could face time and financial constraints, although that they aspire to be the best parent possible.

She said families and even neighbors can often provide support to such parents, but added: “(We) recognize that if you are able to help single parents in such cases, it will enable them to find a stable and supported path so that they are best equipped and empowered to care for (their children).”

Policies that can help single parents do this include more affordable childcare, she said.

Ms. Sun attended the ninth session on Saturday morning, which the People’s Association (PA) co-organized with Afam.

A total of more than 600 people, including experts, took part in the engagement sessions for the plan, called the Celebrating SG Families plan when it was announced in March.

The first session, on June 27, was organized by Afam with more than 40 representatives of faith groups, and the second involved various social service agencies.

The remaining eight sessions, which were co-hosted with either the AP, Fei Yue Community Services, Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities or ethnic self-help groups, involved Singaporean families.

Ms Sun, who runs Afam, also said many suggestions had been made on how to support young couples.

For example, “more social service agencies, as well as faith-based communities, wanted to join us and see how they could (improve) more outreach around pre-marriage counseling and pre-marriage preparation courses” , she said.

Among the participants in previous sessions was Mr. Kelvin Koh, Managing Director of the social service agency Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore.

Mr Koh said the most pressing shortcomings lie in addressing the three main fears of families of people with intellectual disabilities: their living conditions, their schooling and their integration into the community.

More can be done to help people with intellectual disabilities to live as independently as possible with their families, rather than being enrolled in residential care.

He added: “There is also evidence to suggest that if you put someone with intellectual disability into a care facility prematurely, their condition will regress very quickly.”

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