Outreach, Welfare

Ministers visit Covenant FSC

They get update on some key programmes unique to MWS FSCs

TESTAMENT TO THE IMPORTANCE of the work of the Methodist Welfare Service’s (MWS) four Family Service Centres in helping needy families in the community, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, paid a special visit to the MWS Family Service Centre at Hougang on April 15, 2011. Also present was Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Minister of State, Community Development, Youth and Sports.

Accompanying them were Ms Ang Bee Lian, CEO, National Council of Social Service (NCSS), and Ms Tina Hung, Deputy Director, NCSS. Also present were Ms Jenny Bong, Group Executive Director of the MWS, the heads of MWS’ other three Family Service Centres (FSCs) and their staff (Daybreak FSC, Tampines FSC and Sembawang FSC).

There are 36 FSCs in Singapore, all of which are under the purview of the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS). Essentially, the FSC is the resource that a family in need goes to, whether they need help financially, with housing, parenting, marriage or other relationship issues. Social workers and counsellors provide help by linking families with other resources in the community like the Community Development Councils, and other government agencies like the HDB, schools and the legal system. Counselling is also another key service performed by a FSC.

With four FSCs within the MWS fold, a significant number of families and individuals get assistance from them. Every month more than 1,300 individuals come through their doors seeking support.

During their visit, the ministers interacted with the FSC staff and were keen to know what additional resources were needed to enable families to become more self-reliant. An update of some of the key programmes unique to MWS FSCs was presented to Dr Balakrishnan and Mrs Yu-Foo.

Highlights of programmes provided by MWS Family Service Centres

Apart from the core services, i.e., the Referral Services and Case work, MWS FSCs have special programmes to cater to the needs of the immediate community they serve.

• MWS Daybreak FSC: Marriage Preparation Programme, “Before Your Vows” – Responding to the rising divorce rate in our community, this programme aims to give young couples insights into the marital relationship and issues that affect its health like money, children and the managing of in-laws.

• MW Covenant FSC: Guiding Individuals and Families towards Self Reliance (GIFTS) Programme – is is a multi-pronged programme that aims to help families achieve economic independence. It involves the participation of parents, children and other family members in workshops, discussion groups, tuition for children, and bonding activities to strengthen relationships.

• MWS Tampines FSC: Support Group for Step-Families/

Blended-Families – A programme started five years ago to meet the growing needs of remarried couples, it is a platform for them to share about their challenges and growth in caring for their children.

• MWS Sembawang FSC: Learning English At Pace (Leap) Programme – To help children with diffi culties in learning the English Language, this two-year early intervention programme involves enrichment activities and parenting workshops.

Interaction with Ministers

Through this informal interaction with Dr Balakrishnan and Mrs Yu-Foo, the MWS staff were able to feedback to them some of the issues faced in their respective FSCs, particularly the heavy caseload that social workers have which limits their time spent in walking their families through issues and challenges. e ministers also shared their views on how more meaningful assistance could be provided to those families who need longer term support. is could be in the form of team case management, for example, a concept that could be further explored.

Mr Joachim Lee, Tampines FSC Head, said: “It was good that the minister made the special effort to visit our centre and to hear our views on issues. We thought it was a good interactive session.”

Said Mrs Jenny Bong, Group Director of the MWS: “We appreciate it that Dr Balakrishnan and Mrs Yu-Foo made the time to dialogue with us. It showed us that our views matter.”

Pearl Lee is the Group Director, Communications & Fund-Raising of the Methodist Welfare Services.