“Citizens often need public servants – be they MPs or social assistance officers – to speak up for them. Tardiness or too much paperwork can disrupt the flow of aid. And many are turning to the Internet to air their grievances” (State Help Needs Flexibility, Miss Radha Basu).
Referring to the article, “State Help Needs Flexibility” (October 7, 2009), Miss Radha Basu had brought up excellent points with regard to how increased efficiency in processing applications, and heightened flexibility are desired to improve the state help systems. On many occasions, the sheer bureaucracy and red tape involved should be negotiated around so that the help can be dispensed at the quickest, possible moment. Similarly, the attachment of officers to individual neighbourhoods in the North East CDC has been a well-intentioned one; which has granted both the officers and potential beneficiaries greater accessibility and interaction.
Having volunteered at the grassroots level, one of the problems would be that some disadvantaged individuals or households – particularly the elderly and illiterate – often have difficulty comprehending existing benefits and aid they are entitled too. There are existing campaigns and programmes spearheaded by CDCs to increase the awareness of such state help systems in place. Perhaps the former outreach initiatives could be expanded – to erase the stigmas associated with aid and assistance – and inform to residents through REACH, Meet-the-People Sessions, or community activities in general.
The aforementioned proposal would also address the fact that the plethora of assistance schemes is often daunting and confusing to volunteers and applicants alike. To facilitate greater comprehension, CDCs can consider compiling or summarising programmes for different aid categories, rather than inundating individuals with a flood of lengthy brochures. Online portals can also be tapped upon.
It would be beneficial if the different non-profit and aid agencies could find more space for collaboration and cooperation. This would certainly ensure that no stone is left unturned in terms of the providence of assistance, and thereby strengthen this social safety net for the unfortunate. More importantly – while it is crucial for the various volunteers and officers to exhibit compassion and courage – it is the role of every Singaporean to keep a look out for one another. The density of our living quarters makes it challenging for the organisations to seek those who need help but are unable to; but if residents are willing to step up and show care and concern for one another, the efficiency of the state help systems would be strengthened considerably.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.