Had the post on the elderly lady not gone viral, would she have gotten the help she needed from the MSF?

Had the post on the elderly lady not gone viral, would she have gotten the help she needed from the MSF?

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has acknowledged the veracity of a story that had gone viral in relation to an elderly woman who had to seek additional employment in Sentosa just to make ends meet.

On top of providing certain clarifications and updates on what it has done to help the woman in question, the MSF has also said that while it appreciates “the effort of members of the public in reaching out to those who seem to be in need”, disclosing their circumstances on social media “may lead to further distress for these vulnerable groups of people and their families”.

While it is heartening that a government agency is choosing to engage with the public, it seems odd to talk about “further distress” caused to people  when the MSF’s own post is so lengthy and provides so much information as well!

Pot calling kettle black?

The MSF seems to be accusing the public of invading the privacy of this elderly lady while doing the same thing itself. No sense of irony clearly!

Is it a case of the MSF feeling the need to control the flow of the information so that there is no speculation (whether warranted or not) that it is not doing its job properly?

The MSF went on to say that “such posts may not correctly reflect the circumstances of vulnerable groups of people, who may be elderly, or may not share all the details accurately because of the stressors they are facing.”

However would this situation have come to the immediate attention of the MSF for redress had it not gone viral? Had the public not taken the initiative to circulate and publicise the plight of this elderly lady, would she have rapidly gotten the aid that she so obviously needs?

Besides, what are these inaccuracies that the MSF is talking about? It has not disputed the fact that the elderly lady had to travel to Sentosa seeking employment. Nor has it disputed the fact that she had to sell her flat to finance her medical bills. These are surely the key points!

The MSF is a large organisation with the structure and bureaucracies that are not uncommon to organisations of that size. As a result of that set up, it may not always be in a position to dispense help quickly. In that sense, the public helps creates the awareness in order to bring about the help. Even if there are some inaccuracies, the publicity did achieve the desired result. Is that such a bad thing?

In adding that last bit about inaccuracies, is the MSF looking out for the interests of this elderly lady or its own reputation?

At the end of the day, the question remains open — had this post not gone viral, would the elderly lady in question have gotten the help she needed at speed? And if the answer is no, which is the greater need? Fast help or the MSF’s reputation?

The MSF is a government agency (funded by tax payers) whose existence is solely to help Singaporeans in need. It should be spending less time trying to shoot down do gooders, less time trying to defend its public image and more time doing the job it is supposed to do — help people! In this instance, the public helped the MSF by directing its attention to this elderly lady.

The MSF should be grateful instead of seemingly chastising the public for bringing this case the publicity it needed.

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