Published: 04 October 2021
Dr Tan Wu Meng: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) what support measures are available to assist vulnerable dependants of sole breadwinners who are either under remand or jailed; and (b) what processes exist to identify such vulnerable families who may require assistance.
1. Families may encounter challenges, such as financial difficulties, in coping with the incarceration of a family member. The Singapore Prison Service (SPS) collaborates with community partners to identify and assist such families.
2. All newly admitted inmates, including those under remand, are encouraged to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Community Project (YRCP). This is a grassroots-led programme where trained grassroots volunteers visit the inmates’ families and check if they need any help. The families may be referred to community resources, such as Social Service Offices (SSOs) and Family Service Centres (FSCs) for further assistance. On average, over 60% of newly admitted inmates have requested to participate in YRCP.
3. The wide range of assistance provided by the Government including through the SSOs and FSCs, as well as other agencies, is the primary form of support. Depending on the facts and circumstances, these can cover housing, education, healthcare, as well as other daily needs.
4. YRCP’s efforts are over and above these. Since its inception in 2010, the YRCP has grown from 74 volunteers, to over 1,100 volunteers, and reached out to more than 16,000 families. There are several YRCP initiatives. One of these is the annual distribution of “Booster Packs” containing grocery vouchers to needy families. Bookstore vouchers are also given to school-going children aged 6 to 12. This outreach has benefitted over 2,000 families.
5. Another initiative under the YRCP is the collaboration with M3 agencies—MUIS, Mendaki and MESRA—to support Malay/ Muslim families. For example, families with young children receive tuition support from Mendaki while those facing financial difficulties receive Zakat assistance from the mosques. Trained volunteer community befrienders from the Family and Inmates Through-care Assistance Haven (FITRAH), an office under MUIS, provide families with befriending support.
6. Families of inmates who require assistance are also identified by SPS. During regular interviews with prison officers, inmates can share issues faced by them or their family. Inmates can also speak to Visiting Justices who visit the prisons monthly, or to SPS volunteers.
7. Once family needs are raised to the attention of prison officers, referrals will be made to SPS’s Family Resource Centres (FRCs) for assistance. For more complex cases, referrals are made to SSOs or FSCs for in-depth and longer-term interventions.
8. SPS has also worked with MSF and FSCs in 2020 to identify and triage newly admitted inmates whose families require more support. These families are then referred to the FSC nearest to their residence.
9. Over the years, funds have been set up to assist inmates to better meet their family’s financial needs. For example, members of the Board of Visiting Justices have come together to create a small fund called Inmates’ Families Support Fund (IFSF). For inmates who opt for support, the IFSF provides a dollar-to-dollar matching on the work allowances remitted by inmates to their family. This is more to cater for a temporary need. As stated earlier, the primary support comes from the several Government initiatives, targeted at the needy.
10. Yellow Ribbon Emergency Fund provides some financial support to ex-offenders who have just been released from prisons, as well as their family. SPS works with community partners to disburse the assistance.