New feature on OneService app can alert agencies to people in need
The Help Neighbour feature also means residents do not have to determine the correct agency to contact
Residents who spot a rough sleeper in need can now tap a feature on the OneService application that will alert social service agencies to the location, so assistance can be provided quickly.
Also, with the Help Neighbour feature, residents do not have to determine the correct agency to contact or hotline to call.
The new feature, which was piloted on June 30 by the Municipal Services Office (MSO), Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), uses geo-tagged data. Such data provides location and geographical details, among other things.
For a start, the agencies are focusing on four main groups of people commonly flagged by neighbours: vulnerable seniors, rough sleepers, cardboard collectors and tissue paper sellers who may be in need. Those not in these four groups can be categorised as "Others" on the app.
As at last month, feedback on people in need had been submitted 58 times, with about 60 per cent of these referrals already known to the agencies. This means the other 40 per cent picked up were new cases added to the agencies' radar, said Ms Sim Ann, who oversees the MSO, in a Facebook post yesterday.
Of the feedback received, 24 were about vulnerable seniors, 19 involved rough sleepers, nine related to tissue paper sellers and six were about cardboard collectors, Ms Sim, who is Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and National Development, told The Straits Times.
In a statement, MSO, MSF and AIC said residents are encouraged to engage the person perceived to be in need first - when it is deemed safe and respectful to the person's privacy - to better understand his or her needs and if assistance is indeed required.
Ms Sim, in her Facebook post, said the Help Neighbour feature enables concerned strangers to report their encounters with potentially vulnerable persons and have these routed directly to social service agencies, without risking over-exposing the person on social media.
She noted this was especially relevant, as some cases involve complicated family dynamics, and public exposure can mean greater pressure on already strained family relations.
Ms Sim added that the data collected will allow the agencies to check if there are geographical concentrations or settings where vulnerable people are most likely encountered and facilitate better planning of outreach activities.
Ms Angeline Yong, deputy head of the Silver Generation Office in Jalan Besar, said that during the pilot phase, she received alerts about two seniors who are known to her office.
The Silver Generation Office is AIC's outreach arm that links seniors to support.
One alert was from a member of the public who had assumed one of the women was a rough sleeper, based on her appearance.
After being notified through e-mail, the team headed to the location and discovered the woman was someone who was already receiving support.
The member of the public was informed of the outcome.
Ms Yong said: "This app will also help us locate seniors who we have not been successful in engaging with through home visits previously."