Thursday, December 06, 2007

If you are a "nobody", you "will go hungry".

Check out this article Mr Balakrishnan, I think what you meant is that if you are a "nobody", you "will go hungry"

Nobody will go hungry: Balakrishnan

Plans for CCCs to get more funds to help the needy

Sheralyn Tay
sheralyn@mediacorp.com.sg

MORE MONEY for the needy, whenever and wherever it is needed.

And towards that end, the Government is considering an injection of funds into the Citizens Consultative Councils (CCCs), following a review.

This is in a bid to ensure that no Singaporean is left behind even as the cost of living inevitably creeps upward, said Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) Dr Vivian Balakrishnan at a community dialogue session yesterday.

The candid discussion — which followed a ministerial walkabout at Changi-Simei — saw, unsurprisingly, many residents highlighting the issue of rising costs.

Acknowledging their concerns, Dr Balakrishnan reassured them that his ministry was monitoring the situation closely and was planning a review of community-level funding. "What we are thinking of right now is to make sure that grassroots organisations, in particular the CCCs, will have sufficient funds so that they can roll out additional assistance programmes," he said.

This can be in the form of more outreach programmes or vouchers for food and cash, Dr Balakrishnan added, saying that "this will make sure that we can give the assurance that nobody will go hungry".

Plans for the funding review are at "formulation stage" and more details will be shared at the next Budget session, he added.

Dr Balakrishnan also noted that the number of appeals to Community Development Councils and CCCs have gone down overall partly due to the buoyant economy, but he also said that some segments do not benefit from the upswing.

Currently, each of the 84 CCCs gets an average of about $42,000 a year and this is usually enough, he said, but a review would help ensure that funds are available should the need arise. This would especially be the case for CCCs with a larger pool of needy residents, such as Kreta Ayer, which has a disproportionate share of elderly and low-income residents.

Another area of focus is to ensure that children are not denied educational opportunities because their families cannot afford it, said Dr Balakrishnan. "In that area I am prepared to be more generous and to make sure that whatever happens with inflation or the economic front, that these children have optimal social environments in which to grow up in."

With the good economy and unemployment at a record low, Dr Balakrishnan said it was timely to ensure these social safety nets are in place so that society can withstand the pressures caused by rising costs and other challenges.

He also said that Commcare Call — a universal helpline service announced by MCYS Minister of State Mrs Yu-Foo Yee-Shoon earlier this year — would be set up to offer assistance for those who do not know where to go for help.

The toll-free 24-hour number, 1800-222-0000, which is now being tested, will go "live" next month and will be an integrated system — connected to all the relevant community agencies and organisations — to make sure that appropriate help is delivered in a timely and customised way, said Dr Balakrishnan.

These moves are to signal that his ministry "can and will do more" to ensure that help is "flexible, responsive and available", he said.

Ultimately though, he noted, it is cooperation from all sides — the Government, grassroots organisations and citizens — that will ensure that no one falls through the cracks.

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