“The survey was commissioned by the Fathers Action Network (FAN), a work group formed in November last year under the National Family Council” (Spend More Time With Us, Dad: Singapore Kids, Mr. Kenny Chee).
The report “Spend More Time With Us, Dad: Singapore Kids” (November 19, 2010): it is interesting to know what the National Family Council (NFC) – and the subsidiary Father Action Network (FAN) work group – has endeavoured in as an advisory and consultative body for family-related concerns and programmes. Since its inception in 2006, it has commissioned a number of family-based studies and introduced an assortment of initiatives to significantly increase engagement within homes and households. Nonetheless, aside from these relatively superficial efforts, the NFC – with its subsidiary groups and associations – certainly has the potential to partner relevant stakeholders so as to reach out to diverse families, including those struggling due to various pressures.
NFC’s initial role as a consultative medium and a feedback channel for familial policies – through established platforms with parents, children, as well as the private sector in general – seems to be largely negated with the introduction of Reaching Everyone for Active Citizenry @ Home (REACH), the national feedback agency. In recent years, many of its efforts – such as the FAN work group and the Dads@Workplace programme – while commendable, are largely ad-hoc, unsustainable and unsubstantial.
In its aim to “build resilient families”, it has not reached out sufficiently to develop plans targeted at fractured families, or households facing inherently decisive problems, perhaps exacerbated by struggling bread-and-butter issues. The NFC can be constructive for those who fall through the cracks, and render their voices heard by the administration. By working more closely with voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) that have already made in-roads to the aforementioned, the NFC can go beyond a white-collared target audience. Its roles and responsibilities should be profoundly extended to mend broken families, dispense relevant advice through counsellors, providing assistance and liaisons for financial or employment worries; and generally adopting a more case-by-case approach with greater sensitivities. Keeping families tight-knit can yield great benefits; for instance, reducing the number of at-risk youths by providing more responsible parenting and guidance from parents within families.
Given that families are building blocks of any society, the administration must be cognisant that many existing societal problems or challenges stem from the homes. Parents, in particular, play extremely integral roles: educating their children in terms of moral and sexuality education, providing companionship, sharing love and concern et cetera. The NFC must be consistently driving this message home, beyond the awareness campaigns, by working the ground and genuinely interacting with stakeholders to comprehend individual challenges.
It is time to put rhetoric into tangible action. Without diversifying its target audience and increasing variety of the available programmes, the NFC could be rendered irrelevant and redundant in time to come.