27 September 2003
The Official Opening Of The Singapore After-Care Association's Newly Renovated Premises - Speech By Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee, Senior Minister Of State For Law & Home Affairs, 27 September 03
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
The Singapore After-Care Association (or SACA) has come a long way since its formation in 1956. Over the years, its services for discharged prisoners and families of prisoners have evolved from just looking after the physical needs to professionalised counselling-related services. These services better prepare counselees to more effectively face the challenges of the 21st century. Suitably qualified staff and trained volunteers have joined SACA to offer these enhanced services.
Taking CARE of former inmates
2. Today, based in these newly-renovated premises, SACA will press on as a key member of the CARE network - the Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-offenders. SACA's value-add to this Network is to help ex-prisoners re-integrate into society. Indeed, SACA's work begins even before the release of the inmate.
3. Mindful that ex-prisoners may face problems relating to employment and re-integration into society, SACA's Case Managers start a personalised after-care service plan for inmates two months before their release. The Case Managers also conduct life skills workshops for these inmates after their release. This is to follow up on their concerns and to give useful tips on survival skills for life after their release. Besides this, SACA helps the spouses and children of inmates cope with problems that may arise from the imprisonment of their family members. Often, they are also the main source of income for the affected families.
Grateful thanks to sponsors of SACA
4. Like many other voluntary welfare organisations, securing sufficient funding for its programmes to run smoothly is a continual challenge. The current unfavourable economic situation has hampered many voluntary welfare organisations in raising funds.
5. Besides the annual Charity Film Premiere organised since 2000, SACA has embarked on other means of raising funds such as the placing of donation boxes at restaurants and retail outlets. I take this opportunity to thank representatives from the various organisations present today for their support. In its bid to raise funds, SACA depends heavily on the generosity of corporate organisations like yours. Please continue to support SACA.
The Lee Foundation Education Assistance Scheme
6. Today, we launch the Lee Foundation Education Assistance Scheme - a scheme which helps ex-inmates pursue their studies, especially those who lack the financial means to do so. So, for example, ex-inmates who wish to pursue the 'N', 'O' and 'A' Level courses and ITE courses in the coming academic year can receive grants of up to 90 per cent of course fees. Based on the average number of students emplaced on 'N', 'O' and 'A' Level courses as well as NTC2 courses in the prison school, we estimate that about 160 ex-offenders would be eligible as potential recipients of these grants.
7. I thank the Lee Foundation for its very generous contribution of $100,000 to kick-start this scheme. This contribution will go a long way to help ex-offenders get back on track through education. I encourage ex-offenders to make full use of this opportunity and to upgrade themselves.
Keep up the good work, staff and volunteers
8. Being a voluntary welfare organisation, SACA leverages on community resources. Since 1997, the involvement of volunteers in supporting the work of its full-time case workers has enabled SACA to reach out to more ex-inmates. SACA volunteers now play an enhanced role in working closely with case workers to conduct group work programmes for inmates emplaced on the Home Detention Scheme. Volunteers also befriend ex-prisoners and Reformative Trainees who require individual support and assistance.
9. As SACA's Patron, I thank all SACA volunteers for their contributions. Your efforts are helping ex-offenders regain their confidence and self-reliance. Congratulations too to all award recipients who had gone the extra mile in helping ex-offenders over the past year.
10. To everyone, I am sure that these newly-renovated premises will encourage you to press on. Now, staff and volunteers can work in a more conducive environment, backed by upgraded facilities and more efficient services. Better-marshalled resources will facilitate more effective training and counselling. As hardware and software mesh and gel together, I am sure that many more lives will be touched.
11. Thank you.