Published: 09 September 2021
My fellow NCPR Co-chair, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and Ministry of Social and Family Development, Mr Eric Chua
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Good afternoon.
2. I hope you enjoyed today’s Conversations on Youth Symposium.
3. I would like to thank everyone here for taking part, and for sharing your insights during the discussions.
4. I would especially like to thank today’s speakers, who have come from all over the world, to share their expertise and experience.
5. Listening in to the presentations and discussions, I am heartened to see so many of us come together, learn from each other, and find new ways to better support our youths.
Reflections on COY Theme
6. The theme of today’s event is “I’m not difficult; I’m in a difficult situation”.
7. This theme is one that resonates deeply with me.
8. It reminds us that each child or youth is unique, and faces his or her own unique set of challenges and circumstances.
9. However, all youths have within them the potential to develop into the best version of themselves, given the right support.
10. I urge all of us to take the theme to heart. Let us steer away from labelling or stigma. Instead, consider how we can help youths change their “difficult situation”, to help them achieve their fullest potential.
11. All of us here today are part of the “situation”. By working together, with the best interest of youths in our mind, we can also be the solution.
Story of “Adam”
12. Let me share the story of “Adam”, whom I met earlier this year when I visited Changi Prison.
13. In his early 20s, “Adam” faced financial difficulties, and worked odd jobs to make ends meet. To make some quick money, “Adam” got himself involved in drugs and was caught. In 2018, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.
14. While in Prison, “Adam” decided to change the trajectory of his life. He realised he had his whole life ahead of him. He was determined not to let his past mistakes determine his future.
15. With the support of the Singapore Prison Service, “Adam” sat for his ‘O’-levels in Prison School. He did well for his examinations and is now pursuing a diploma in International Supply Chain Management from Ngee Ann Polytechnic. “Adam” is on track to attain his diploma before his release in a few years’ time.
16. “Adam’s” story shows us that the stories of the youths whom we work with are still being written. The “difficult situation” they may be in today, or the mistakes of yesterday, do not define their futures.
17. Incidentally, I visited Changi Prison again two days ago. I do this regularly, as part of my work to engage our young people as well as the inmates. I wanted to develop a relationship, so that I not only am better able to understand them, but I also want each of us to talk through our hearts, so that we better understand their situation and help to find ways for them to go through their rehabilitation journey well, with the support of the society.
18. I met a few others like Adam, and I am thankful to all of you, including our agencies and our community partners, who have worked very hard to understand the situation of our friends like Adam who are facing this situation, and at the same time, working hard to give them better lives ahead. My sincere thanks to all of you and I urge you to continue to do this.
19. I also shared with people like Adam and the rest of the inmates that they also have to understand the situation of others, such as their parents, their loved ones and the people around them, who want to help them to write the next chapters in their lives. They hope the best for them, and they also hope that they can be part of the chapters and write a different chapter in terms of nuancing, in terms of storyline, and achieve excellence and enhance their potential as much as possible.
20. Among the many whom I have spoken to or who heard what I said, I am happy to share that some realise [that there are people supporting them] and thanked me. In fact, during my visit two days ago, one of them whispered to me, thanking me for making him realise that it is a journey of the bigger community and them, and not only about their journey. So, when we come together, sincerely wanting to make lives better for each and every one of us, an occasion like this is a very important occasion for us to make lives better for every one of us.
21. So, let us work together, to help them write the next chapters in their lives.
22. The difficult situation that many youths face has only been made more challenging by the COVID-19 pandemic.
23. They have had to adapt to the new norms of staying indoors, learning from home, and not seeing their friends as often as they would like.
24. We all have a part to play to help those under our care meet these challenges. We can achieve even more by working together.
25. Let me give you one example of how our collaborations can lead to meaningful outcomes for those under our care:
The Singapore Prison Service, or SPS, recently concluded a two-year trial to better understand the issues faced by the families of offenders.
The lessons learnt from this trial led to the development of a pilot to strengthen coordination and information exchange between SPS and Family Service Centres, or FSCs.
This ensures that children and families of inmates who need support have direct and timely assistance from FSCs. Inmates are also more assured that their families are being looked after, and can better concentrate on their own rehabilitation.
Since commencing the pilot in October 2020, SPS has worked with about 450 families of inmates to assess their needs, and will continue to refer vulnerable families to the FSCs for support.
26. Another example is the setup of the National CARE hotline to provide psychological and emotional support to all Singaporeans affected by COVID-19-related stress.
The hotline was supported by 500 psychologists, counsellors, social workers, and other public servants from more than 50 public agencies, who stepped up to support this national effort.
27. I hope that many of you will take away something meaningful from today’s symposium – a fresh perspective, or perhaps even new friends – that may help you in your daily work.
28. Let us build these “Conversations on Youth” into actions for youths – to give all the youths under our care a brighter future. Thank you.