Speeches/Interviews

August 13, 2018

Speech by Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung, at the Score Appreciation Awards Ceremony

Mr Chng Hwee Hong, Chairman of SCORE

Mr Chow Chee Kin, CEO of SCORE

Ladies and gentlemen

Partners

Introduction

1. I am pleased to join you today, to recognise partners who have been working closely with the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE), to support ex-offenders on their reintegration journey.

2. Every year, about 10,000 offenders are released from prison. Most leave with the hope of starting afresh and reconnecting with their families and their communities. Key to this is a chance at employment, which allows them to stand tall, be independent, and able to provide for their families. So, a job is not just about livelihood, but also about dignity.

3. However, while released from prison, ex-offenders are often not released from the stigma of society. The transition from prison to working life is not easy. 30% of these ex-offenders have low or no education, making it difficult for them to seek employment. A criminal record compounds the difficulty to reintegrate into society.

Rehabilitation and Reintegration Efforts with Partners

4. The key role of our Prisons system is to rehabilitate. The Singapore Prisons Service believes that everyone deserves a second chance, and one of its key tasks is to overcome the challenge of re-integration of ex-offenders, and to reduce re-offending. SCORE, in this regard, plays an important complementary role in this process.

5. Over the years, SCORE has helped thousands of ex-offenders enhance their employability by providing skills training, job placement, job coaching and support. In 2017, about 4,600 inmates received SCORE training and picked up useful skills such as generic skills, as well as industry skills.

6. Ex-offenders who require more guidance can also tap on SCORE’s job retention support services, making it easier for ex-offenders to find work and remain employed. Today, 97 per cent of some 2,100 inmates referred to SCORE secured a job before their release in 2017.

7. 1All this is possible because of the network of partners working together with SCORE. That is why the theme for this year’s event is “Strengthening Collaboration, Enhancing Skills”.

8. Many of the partners are here with us today. You have not only made a meaningful impact on ex-offenders, by reaching out to them, giving them second chances, and inspiring others in the community to follow your footsteps. Let me cite a couple of examples of the good work of SCORE’s partners.

9. First, Mr. Benny Se Teo of Eighteen Chefs employs ex-offenders and troubled youths at his restaurant. His only criteria for recruiting ex-offenders is that they must be willing to change. The rehabilitation cause is very close to his heart. When he was first released from prison in 1993, he had difficulty securing employment, and decided then that he would hire ex-offenders if he became a boss one day. And he kept to his word. He creates a career path for the staff member from the first day they join his company, pays them competitively, trains them well, and instils a sense of pride and belonging in them.

10. Another valuable corporate partner is ABR Holdings. One of their staff, Khairool, was employed as a service crew member at one of ABR’s restaurants. With no prior experience in the F&B industry, he struggled initially to cope with the new working environment. With the close guidance of his managers, he has stayed in the job for eight months now, gotten a raise, and taken on more responsibilities.

11. 1CapitaLand has been working with SCORE on a two-year pilot programme, to develop the thinking and socio-emotional skills of children of inmates and ex-offenders. The programme targets to support 100 children aged three to 12. Since the launch of the programme, CapitaLand has helped more than 50 families and 70 children.

12. So, thank you to CapitaLand, ABR Holdings, Mr Benny Se Teo and all our partners for your extensive support.

13. The most important aspect of the rehabilitation journey is the mindset of ex-offenders. As tough as it may be, they must persevere, stay strong and seize the opportunities that come their way and change their lives. I would like to share with you two stories of ex-offenders who have done so.

14. After being released from prison, Jack attended an interview with Connect Centre. He aced the interview, and became a call centre agent. One of the initial challenges he faced was communicating with people. His supervisor noticed his difficulty, and actively coached and guided him. Jack eventually overcame these challenges and became more proficient in his work. In recognition of his outstanding performance, Jack was promoted to be a Team Leader in November last year.

15. Similarly, when Aziz first started working at KM Kinley as a warehouse assistant, he also struggled. He had issues adapting to his job scope and interacting with his fellow colleagues. However, with the support of his supervisor Chandra and his colleagues, Aziz integrated well into his workplace, and developed a positive sense of belonging in his workplace. It has been eight months since Aziz started work and he is also doing well.

Conclusion

16. Any society needs to run on the rule of law. As we know, this includes a system of penalties and punishments for acts that are detrimental to society. But such a system of enforcement of discipline also needs to be moderated and complemented with efforts for offenders to make good and rejoin society. The same consideration exists in our education system. A person’s future cannot be totally determined by his or her past.

17. So, to everyone who is here with us today - thank you for offering hope to ex-offenders. Thank you for creating supportive workplaces, and for giving them the opportunity to learn and to grow. We look forward to your continued support in SCORE’s work to reintegrate ex-offenders into our community. Thank you.