Strengthening community care services
Expansion of Community Networks for Seniors and renaming of PGO are some changes highlighted in Minister for Finance’s Budget Statement.
The nationwide expansion of Community Networks for Seniors (CNS) was one of the changes highlighted in Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat’s Budget Statement, which hopes to better integrate health and social support services for seniors in the community. The CNS programme, which will be overseen by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and its Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), will be progressively expanded nationwide by 2020.
CNS aims to develop a strong community-based support system to complement family-based support to keep seniors well and help them age-in-place through bringing together different stakeholders in the community – voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs), People’s Association’s (PA) grassroots organisations, regional health systems and Government agencies. The objectives are to not only promote active ageing among seniors to keep them well, but also to extend befriending services to seniors living alone, and provide health and social support for seniors with needs.
The expansion of CNS follows “encouraging results” at pilot sites at Tampines, Marine Parade and Chua Chu Kang since 2016. At these sites, CNS planners and coordinators work with community-based organisations such as Senior Activity Centres (SACs) and PA to introduce preventive health and active ageing activities to encourage seniors to step out of their homes and to engage in these activities regularly. They also work with PA to identify and train neighbours who volunteer to keep an eye on seniors living alone near them. In addition, local community-based organisations are activated to recruit, train and deploy befrienders to support seniors who are at higher risk of social isolation.
Since 2016, CNS has activated more than 70 Residents’ Committees (RCs) to hold regular preventive health and active ageing activities for more than 70,000 seniors. More than 1,500 seniors are now attending these activities on a weekly basis. The CNS has also matched more than 600 seniors to befrienders and assisted about 800 seniors with complex health and social needs. According to MOH, work has already begun to expand CNS to various other locations such as East Coast, Ang Mo Kio, Nee Soon, Tanjong Pagar and Jurong areas.
Renaming of PGO
Other changes mentioned in Minister Heng’s Budget Statement, which will take place in April 1, 2018, include the renaming of the Pioneer Generation Office (PGO) to the Silver Generation Office and be merged into AIC. PGO was formed in 2014 to reach out to Pioneer Generation Singaporeans to explain key Government policies such as the Pioneer Generation Package and MediShield Life. PGO has since trained 3,000 PG ambassadors and engaged three in four seniors aged 65 years and above.
According to MOH, this repositioning will better reflect the PGO’s expanded mandate to outreach to all Singaporeans aged 65 years and above, as announced by the Prime Minister on July 9, 2016. Apart from explaining Government policies, Silver Generation ambassadors will proactively identify seniors who are in need and connect them to active ageing, befriending and aged care services in the community.
Minister Heng also highlighted further consolidation of planning and policy oversight of health and social support services. This means that the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will transfer its oversight of Senior Cluster Networks which include SACs, Cluster Support, Caring Assistance from Neighbours (CAN) Carers and other programmes including befriending services to MOH. MSF will retain oversight of senior group homes and sheltered homes, which are in line with its core role of looking after low-income and vulnerable Singaporeans.
Said MOH, “Taken together, the changes will strengthen our system of community care services for our seniors. They will enable the Government, through MOH, to plan and develop health and social support services for seniors more holistically.”
(** PHOTO CREDIT: MOH’s brochure, “Better Health, Better Future For All)