Aware calls for more help for seniors, caregivers

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

It urged the Government to provide more aid to 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 yesterday. 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, it added.

Aware noted that Singapore will have fewer children and more migrants in future, a demographic trend that will increase the burden on the shrinking pool of younger Singaporeans supporting the elderly.

Its head of advocacy and research, Ms Jolene Tan, said: "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."

Aware had three recommendations to help seniors.

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 Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings.

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

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

Third, it calls for ElderShield payouts to be for life and for men and women to pay the same premiums.

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

The association also sought more government support for younger women who stopped working to be caregivers, noting that this group is financially vulnerable as they may not save enough for themselves. This could be through an allowance or automatic transfers of CPF savings from a working spouse's account.

It calls for childcare subsidies to be available to all mothers with household incomes lower than $2,500 a month, regardless of whether they are working.

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 calls for more paternity leave and shared parental leave, as well as introducing eldercare leave.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2017, with the headline 'Aware calls for more help for seniors, caregivers'. Print Edition | Subscribe