Parliamentary Question, 3 Sep 2019
Ms Anthea Ong asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) what is the current percentage of transnational families that are living under the Public Rental Scheme; (b) how many of these families also require services from other Ministries such as learning support or medical subsidies; © whether the Ministry has considered a family-centred approach with one key social worker who assists and facilitates the transnational families in accessing the services they need; and (d) whether there are plans to invest more resources for transnational families to include job skills and language-based training, and providing language interpreters in schools to better help the integration of the foreign parent.
Mr Desmond Lee: About 7%, or around 3,300, of the families living in Public Rental flats are transnational families, defined as households headed by Singaporeans married to foreigners.
The Government takes a family-centric approach and works closely with community partners to deliver comprehensive, convenient and coordinated support to families in need. Social Service Offices (SSO) and the Family Service Centres (FSC) are two key touchpoints for low-income and vulnerable households. SSO officers and FSC social workers seek to work closely with families, including transnational families, to address their needs and challenges. These could include health, housing, schooling and employment concerns, or other family-related issues. To support families facing complex circumstances, a lead agency is identified to have oversight of the family’s needs. The lead agency works closely with the family, and also rallies other agencies and partners to coordinate and align their interventions. This way, we can render holistic help to support the family towards stabilising and improving their circumstances.
We recognise that transnational families may face unique challenges, such as language difficulties. To address this, foreign spouses who attend our marriage preparation programmes can also sign up for free basic language classes, to help reduce language barriers in daily life. Alternatively, they can also attend language courses run by the People’s Association.
Schools have not reported difficulties interacting with foreign parents, but where language is a barrier, they can enlist the help of the other parent, family members or school personnel who are conversant in the foreign parent’s preferred language.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)
The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities. She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and volunteerism in Parliament.
She is also an impact entrepreneur/investor and a passionate mental health advocate, especially in workplace wellbeing. She started WorkWell Leaders Workgroup in May 2018 to bring together top leaders (CXOs, Heads of HR/CSR/D&I) of top employers in Singapore (both public and private) to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices to promote workplace wellbeing. Anthea is also the founder of Hush TeaBar, Singapore’s 1st silent teabar and a social movement that aims to bring silence, self care and social inclusion into every workplace, every community — with a cup of tea. The Hush Experience is completely led by lovingly-trained Deaf facilitators, supported by a team of Persons with Mental Health Issues (PMHIs).
Follow Anthea Ong on her public page at www.facebook.com/antheaonglaytheng