More receive temporary financial aid

This article was first published on Sept 11, 2014

The amount of social assistance given to people in need of temporary financial aid increased by a third in the last financial year - and was handed out to a bigger group.

From April last year to March this year, about $56 million was distributed in the form of short- to medium-term payouts, more than double the amount given five years ago.

The money - from the ComCare Endowment Fund, set up by the Government in 2005 - went to nearly 26,000 households, 19 per cent more than in the previous financial year.

ComCare funds are mainly distributed in the form of long-term help for poor elderly people, temporary help for those facing crises, and subsidies for children from low-income families.

Over $102 million in total was given to about 72,000 needy Singaporeans and their families in the last financial year, according to the latest ComCare annual report released yesterday.

This is down from the $106 million given to about 74,900 individuals and families in the previous year.

In particular, assistance for children dropped by about $20 million, with about 9,500 fewer receiving help.

This decrease was due to the administration of childcare subsidies being transferred out of ComCare to the Early Childhood Development Agency, according to the Ministry of Social and Family Development, which oversees ComCare.

Spending on long-term aid remained stable at $17.3 million. The biggest jump was in short- and medium-term payouts.

This rise was due to changes made to "widen the coverage of ComCare support" to more Singaporeans, the ministry said.

Since July last year, for instance, 14 social service offices - in charge of disbursing national financial aid schemes - have been set up, with nine more due to open by June next year.

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said: "The new network of social service offices in the heart of our HDB estates enables citizens in need to have easier and quicker access to social assistance."

More families in need have also received help since the monthly household income ceiling for short- and medium-term help was raised from $1,500 to $1,700 in April 2012. The cap is now $1,900.

Ms Agnes Chia, centre director of Care Corner Family Service Centre, said: "Most in the lower-income group have difficulty getting information about schemes, possibly because they do not read the papers or watch TV, and those in their social networks do not know about the schemes too.

"But with different groups working in tandem and helping to publicise one another's services at their outreach events, awareness of help schemes such as ComCare can be spread more quickly."

goyshiyi@sph.com.sg