Social safety net strengthened amid pandemic: Desmond Lee

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Desmond Lee acknowledges struggles of groups hit hard by Covid-19 and outlines Government's support schemes

Singapore's social safety net has been strengthened amid the Covid-19 pandemic, said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee.

He acknowledged the struggles of various groups who had been hard hit by the outbreak and outlined the support schemes the Government has put in place to help them.

Vulnerable and low-income households have been particularly hard hit.

About 550 volunteers under the SG Cares Community Networks have been reaching out to them, working closely with the social service offices and government agencies to ensure they do not fall through the cracks.

"In two weeks, we have engaged 1,800 households living in rental flats and have referred more than 600 of them to agencies for further support," Mr Lee said.

Applications for ComCare, which gives financial support to lower-income households, have gone up by 30 per cent compared with the same period last year - with an average of 4,000 new applications approved each month.

As for middle-income households suddenly in crisis for job-related reasons, Mr Lee said there have been schemes to help them too.

In April, the Temporary Relief Fund disbursed $225 million to 450,000 Singaporeans, while over 35,000 applications have been approved so far for the Covid-19 Support Grant.

The Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme has received more than 150,000 applications.

Mr Lee was speaking at a virtual PAP press conference yesterday.

He also spoke about psychological well-being.

"Even if you provide financial support but the will of the individual and family is broken by the stresses and strains, that will be a barrier to them being able to grasp opportunities that are provided by the economic and jobs agencies, and the labour movement," he said.

He cited initiatives such as the National Care Hotline, which has fielded calls from about 23,000 people since it was launched in April;, which has resources on mental health; and a new Youth Mental Well-being Network, which gathers views on this topic.

Family violence has also gone up amid the pandemic.

"Our adult protection and child protection services saw a monthly average of 7 per cent more inquiries received over the months of April and May, compared with March before circuit breaker started.

"And in the current post-circuit breaker period, both these services have seen a 30 per cent increase in the average number of monthly inquiries compared with during the circuit breaker period."

The issue remains "very salient" and the authorities will keep an eye on it.