Aware calls for more help for seniors and caregivers

Aware said more should be done to help seniors and people who stopped working to look after their children or relatives.
Aware said more should be done to help seniors and people who stopped working to look after their children or relatives.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - As Singapore's population ages, more should be done to help seniors and people who stopped working to look after their children or relatives, said the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware).

It urged the Government to do more to help these two groups of people in this year's Budget, which will be released on Feb 20.

Families should not be left to shoulder the costs of taking care of their older relatives, Aware said in a statement on Tuesday (Jan 17).

It added that the state should foot more of the bill of caring for these seniors, many of whom are women and do not have enough savings or assets to meet their own needs.

Aware noted the demographic trend that Singapore will have fewer children and more migrants. This means there will be fewer and fewer Singaporean children to support each older person, increasing the burden on each individual.

Said Aware's head of advocacy and research Jolene Tan: "We must face demographic realities.

"With a shrinking number of children within each family, we can nevertheless sustain social support if we look at the tax base as a whole, including the growing proportion of the working population who are migrants," she added.

Help for seniors

The group had three recommendations.

First, make more seniors eligible for the Silver Support scheme, which gives cash supplements to needy seniors.

Aware wants to raise the qualifying household income ceiling for people who have very little lifetime earnings and CPF savings.

The group also wanted payouts to be increased, and to remove the distinction between different flat sizes. Currently, seniors in larger flats get less cash.

Second, Aware wants the Pioneer Generation Package expanded to all people who turn 65 and above. The healthcare subsidy scheme is only for those aged 68 and above this year (2017).

Third, Aware called for Eldershield payouts to be for life, and for men and women to pay the same premiums.

Women typically pay higher premiums than men for Eldershield, an insurance scheme for those who have severe disabilities and cannot carry out daily activities on their own.

Helping those who stopped work to be caregivers

Younger women who stopped working to be caregivers are also financially vulnerable as they may not save enough for themselves. They should get more support from the Government, Aware said.

This could be through an allowance or automatic transfers of Central Provident Fund savings from a working spouse's account.

It also called for childcare subsidies to be available to all mothers with household incomes of $2,500 a month, regardless of whether they are working or not.

This will make it easier for these mothers to go out and find a job, as their children will be taken care of while they do so, said Aware.

It also called for more paternity leave and shared parental leave, as well as introducing eldercare leave.