Politics – the art of the possible?

Singapore Democrats

More than a quarter of the 150 or so new members and volunteers who attended the party’s Road to 2016 workshop on 14 May 11 disagreed: Politics, they believe, is imagining the impossible.

They have chosen to join the party’s Community Service Subcommittee, which will serve the community by understanding and helping to provide or facilitate welfare and community programmes.

This Subcommittee, facilitated by Dr Vincent Wijeysingha and Ms Chee Siok Chin, attracted the most number of the participants. The number was so large that a separate room had to be arranged for them to meet.

Speaking with one voice, they said very firmly that sharing our wealth with those less fortunate than us is a duty of every citizen and a responsibility of the government.

And that is not based on whether there are enough resources to share, but whether one feels a sufficient sense of compassion and purpose.

The man who coined the phrase which is the title of this article Otto von Bismarck, the first Chancellor of Germany, is credited as a humane man, devoted to his nation, who played a stronger role than any of his countrymen, in uniting his nation and underpinning the community so created with a social welfare system that did not encourage dependency but instead built on the people’s sense of fairness.

He worked closely with big industry and stimulated German economic growth by giving workers greater security. He did not believe that the best way to encourage economic growth was by exploiting workers.

During our walkabouts and residents’ visits over the last two years leading up to GE 2011, many residents raised concerns about difficult-to-access services such as bridging loans from the Community Development Councils; unresponsive government departments regarding family matters and general difficulty of getting help and support when they run into difficulties; and programes that are too expensive or not tailored to the needs of low-income or special needs families.

After a long brainstorming session, the Community Services Subcommittee agreed on working in four streams of activity:

  • Advice and referral to help people navigate their way through existing schemes;
  • Welfare services targeted needy groups such as the elderly;
  • Volunteer input for children with special needs; and
  • Ad hoc programmes to assist people to cope with specific community disasters.

These streams will be overseen by smaller Working Groups within the Subcommittee.

The vision of the Community Service Subcommittee is to ensure that where there is a need that prevents a member of the community from reaching his or her full potential or where a family is struggling because of a difficulty to access support, that we will do our best to help that individual by advocating on their behalf; bringing people together to contribute their skills, money or time; providing direct welfare services; or spearheading community activities like youth programmes.

The initial plans identified are to:

1. Assess the welfare needs in the Marsiling area leading to a programme of action;

2. Review current services available and how people should go about trying to access them leading to an information booklet;

3. Audit current programmes in terms of accessibility leading to an audit paper;

4. Estimate the level of special needs among children in the Ghim Moh area leading to a programme of support services like tuition or parenting guidance; and

5. Draw up a programme to help the community to deal with the psychological fallout resulting from the contaminated water tank and the botched Town Council Disaster Management Plan (DMP).

The Working Groups have already started meeting to plan their output with the Welfare Working Group meeting last Saturday to flesh out a Needs Analysis Survey that they will carry out in the coming weeks. The Advice and Referral Working Group will be meeting shortly to plan a review of current welfare services.

The Subcommittee still has room for more volunteers to help with the data gathering, resources, and service provision. From the feedback the party received during the GE, there are many unmet needs out there; the Welfare Subcommittee will start to plug those gaps in a small way and gradually build up our capacity, expertise, and resources.

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