More NTUC members benefit from U Care Fund

Payout rises to $9.1m from $8.75m last year after review of assistance criteria

More workers received support from the labour movement this year, which gave out $9.1 million to low-income union members and their families.

This is an increase from the $8.75 million given out last year through assistance programmes under the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) U Care Fund. There are more than 880,000 NTUC members.

The announcement was made at the NTUC Family Fair - Back to School event held at NTUC Centre yesterday .

The rise in disbursed funds may be due to factors such as more members receiving U Stretch vouchers, which support low-income families, according to Ms Phyllis Lim, deputy director of the NTUC Care and Share department, which handles fund-raising and assistance programmes.

The reviewed criteria are pegged to the bottom 20 per cent of household incomes. NTUC reviews the criteria each year, in line with trends, to stay relevant.

Some 24,922 members received the vouchers this year, around 500 more than last year.

The value of its Family Recreation & Fun Carnival package was increased from $100 to $150.

It follows a review of the qualifying criteria for two assistance schemes under the U Care Fund this year, which could have contributed to the slight increase in U Stretch voucher recipients, according to Mr Zainal Sapari, NTUC assistant secretary-general.

To be eligible, members should have a gross monthly household income of not more than $3,000, up from $2,800.

Where the gross household income exceeds $3,000, members can apply if their per capita income does not exceed $750, up from $725.

The gross personal income ceiling for members without dependants in the same household rose to $1,450 from $1,400.

The reviewed criteria are pegged to the bottom 20 per cent of household incomes.

NTUC reviews the criteria each year, in line with trends, to stay relevant. It also considers appeals on a case-by-case basis to extend help to as many low-income members as possible, he added.

"I volunteer to work overtime to earn extra income for my children's school expenses," said Mr Mohamed Ariff Bajul Ahamed, 39, an operations executive.

The father of three added: "These additional vouchers help a lot."

During the event, Mr Zainal said the NTUC U Care Centre, which provides guidance on work-related issues to low-wage workers, helped more people this year. It assisted 7,000 workers, up from 5,500 last year.

It ramped up its outreach efforts to include part-time working students and adults, and is working harder to engage the Malay-Muslim community which has been under-represented during NTUC's employment seminars.

The centre does this through customised seminars and collaborations with Enhanced Mosque Clusters and Mendaki Sense - the training arm of self-help group Mendaki.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2015, with the headline 'More NTUC members benefit from U Care Fund'. Print Edition | Subscribe