Budget debate: MPs call for review on Covid-19 vaccination scheme, more public education on mental health

Nominated MP Tan Yia Swam

Educate public on mental health

Many members of the public may want to help when they see others behaving oddly, but may not feel able to, said Dr Tan.

“We need to have more schemes in place for the general public to recognise early signs of mental illnesses, and how to assist as a first responder,” she said.

Dr Tan also noted that mental resilience, proper sleeping habits and safe Internet use are related to mental health and should be taught in schools, and to adults as well.

Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC)

Review national vaccination scheme

There is a comprehensive national vaccination programme for children here, but not for adults and the elderly, Dr Lim noted.

Many Singaporeans do not get vaccinations regularly unless they need to for travel or work, even though an illness like influenza can lead to complications and sudden death, he said.

Dr Lim suggested a review of the national programme, adding that more should be done to promote awareness of immunisation.

Non-constituency MP Hazel Poa

Improve insurance portability


As a person ages and develops medical conditions, it becomes “practically impossible” to change one’s Integrated Plan (IP) provider as the conditions will be excluded from cover, Ms Poa said.

Insurers may entice younger people with lower premiums and hike them when they are older, she said.

Ms Poa asked if the Government will consider making it a condition for IP providers to allow policy holders to switch providers without imposing additional conditions.

Mariam Jaafar (Sembawang GRC)

Address reasons why health workers quit


While the recently announced pay rise for public healthcare workers will help address the shortage of nurses and caregivers, demand for nurses is expected to increase further as Singapore ages, said Ms Mariam.

She wanted to know what was being done to enhance career paths for healthcare workers and address the top reasons they quit.

This could include a review of shift structures and giving more support to nurses, she suggested.

Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC)


Make marriage prep courses affordable

Strong marriages are important to Singapore and to the couples themselves, said Mr Seah. Marriage preparation courses on such topics as negotiation and conflict resolution can thus be useful for young people planning to marry, he added.

But these courses can cost hundreds of dollars, he noted. He asked how such programmes could be made more accessible and affordable for couples.

He also argued that when a couple divorces, it should not be seen as an indictment of the courses.

There could multiple reasons for a break-up.

“If a marriage is abusive and unhappy, surely the best outcome is to step out of it. Divorce should not be seen as a failure but an option in relationships.”

Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok)

Alter rule on ‘rough sleepers’ with homes


People have various reasons for sleeping in public places, said Mr Murali, citing a recent study that found some of these ” rough sleepers” have homes but choose not to stay at home.

He said the Destitute Persons Act applies to any idle person found in a public place without a home, among other things. This means the law cannot make rough sleepers with a residential address take shelter at welfare homes for their health and well-being.

“I believe there is a case to remove the residency requirement,” he said. “With the rough sleeper brought into institutionalised care, I’d think there will consequently be a better opportunity to resolve the underlying issues.”

Nominated MP Lim Sun Sun

Define, protect digital rights of children


The digital world is ripe with opportunities but fraught with risks for today’s young, said Professor Lim. Children are using devices at an earlier age and they must be protected from commercial and sexual exploitation online, she added.

Prof Lim said children are being targeted with content showing expensive toys and unhealthy habits, like vaping, or e-cigarette smoking. They are also being aggressively marketed to at various platforms.

“Even in the face of Covid-19, I believe our children are under greater threats from influencers than influenza.”

She asked the Government to recognise, define and protect the digital rights of children.

Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC)

Give non-working mums higher subsidy


The current framework for early childhood education subsidies gives a bigger subsidy to working mothers, said Mr David.

Non-working mums receive a smaller subsidy because it is assumed they can care for their children at home instead of sending them to full-day childcare.

“This has resulted in a peculiar situation where dual-income families could receive a higher level of pre-school subsidies than single-income families.”

Some non-working mums also have to care for elderly family members. He asked what measures can be put in place to better support this group of mothers.

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