Bridging The Gap Between the Government and People – The Role of CDCs

Austin Kehmeier / Unsplash
Austin Kehmeier / Unsplash

In his speech during the Central Singapore CDC’s (Community Development Council) 10th Appointment Ceremony on 24 November, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned that the CDCs are the “crucial bridge” between the government and Singapore residents.

The ceremony which was held virtually saw 62 district councillors appointed for the 10th council term.

PM Lee added that the personal connection the CDCs create helps deliver government services with a human face and a human touch. Not only does this connection help the government to respond quickly and effectively to residents in times of need, it also builds the spirit of a caring society.

The CDC has come a long way since it was first established in 1997. The concept of CDCs was first mooted by then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in his 1996 National Day rally speech.

More than a decade later, the councils have built a strong support group of volunteers, partners, and corporate donors to readily roll out programmes for the Singapore community.

Divided into five districts to serve every Singapore resident

The CDC is divided into five districts, namely, Central Singapore, North East, North West, South West, and South East.

The aim of the CDCs is to build a caring and cohesive community by assisting the needy, and to bring people closer together through the programmes which the CDCs organise.

The districts’ residents are served by the Office of the Mayors, who are also the chairman of the respective CDC the individual is taking care of.

The mayors who are helming the five districts are: Ms Low Yen Ling (South West CDC), Ms Denise Phua (Central Singapore CDC), Mr Desmond Choo (North East CDC), Mr Alex Yam (North West CDC) and Mr Mohd Fahmi Aliman (South East CDC).                                                                                                                                                             

As the CDCs’ role is to forge closer bonds among people in the community, the councils work with many parties such as grassroots organisations, government agencies and partners from private sectors, on the national, district and constituency level to organise suitable programmes.

Bringing art programmes to the less advantaged communities

The CDCs have rolled out many initiatives to assist those in need. One of which includes the WeCare Arts Fund, which was set up in 2014.

A partnership between the CDCs and the National Arts Council (NAC), the aim of the arts fund is to support Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) with arts-related projects through the five Community Development Councils (CDCs).

Artists or art groups can use the fund to engage beneficiaries at the VWO through arts projects to help foster stronger bonds in the community. Successful applicants will receive up to $5,000 to roll out their programmes.

According to The Straits Times, $1.5 million was set aside over three years in 2014 for this initiative.

The art projects under the WeCare Arts Fund had involved more than 171 social service organisations, 91 artists, and about 8,300 beneficiaries in the last three years since it started in 2014.

To continue keeping the community spirit alive through arts, the fund was renewed by $1 million in 2017 for two more years.

Lending a helping hand to those affected by COVID-19: CDC Vouchers Scheme

COVID-19 has brought about heavy repercussions for the economy, with many livelihoods being impacted. The five CDCs had rolled out 70 over initiatives between February to June 2020 to help residents tide through this crisis.

In order to assist the CDCs in helping those impacted by COVID-19, the government announced in its 2020 Budget statement that additional grant given to the councils has been increased from $20 million to $75 million.

Part of the grant provided was used by the CDCs to set up a local community scheme, known as the CDC Vouchers Scheme.

Jointly organised by the five CDCs, the scheme was launched on 12 June 2020. The aim is to help lower income families offset the cost of living, and at the same time support local businesses during the pandemic.

According to Channel NewsAsia, up to 400,000 households were eligible for the scheme.

Under the $20 million initiative, each eligible household is provided with $50 worth of vouchers in $2 denomination. The vouchers can be used to buy food at hawker centres, and also for essential goods and services such as hair salons and family clinics.

These vouchers can be used islandwide and are valid till 31 December 2020.

Ngee Ann Kongsi-Community Development Council COVID-19 Relief Fund

Aside from the CDC vouchers scheme, a $4 million fund was also set up to address the needs of those unemployed due to COVID-19.

Known as the Ngee Ann Kongsi-Community Development Council Covid-19 Relief Fund, the initiative was launched on 2 November 2020.

A joint collaboration between Ngee Ann Kongsi and the five CDCs, each party pledged $2 million to the COVID-19 relief fund.

The fund is targeted at Singaporeans aged 21 and above who are currently unemployed and have experienced income loss due to non-voluntary no-pay leave, retrenchment or termination for at least three months.

Successful applicants will be able to receive a one-time relief fund of $500.

The CDCs have been helping those in need for more than a decade. Through their relentless efforts, it is with reassurance that the councils, together with their strong network of volunteers and partners, will continue to help shape Singapore into a caring and inclusive society.


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