Quarter of those getting ComCare funds are employed

Taxi driver Terry Tan spends 12 hours a day on the road, earning about $2,200 a month for his family of five.

The 44-year-old has also been receiving Short-to-medium Term Assistance from the Community Care (ComCare) Endowment Fund for two years.

A total of 26 per cent of those receiving the money last year were employed, while the second-highest proportion of recipients (23 per cent) were job-seekers.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development released data on ComCare beneficiaries for the first time yesterday.

Most beneficiaries of short- to medium-term assistance were in their 40s and 50s, with 65 per cent not having passed their O or N levels. Four in 10 were married.

  • Who the beneficiaries are

  • Short-to-Medium Term Assistance

    • 51 per cent were in their 40s and 50s.

    • 64.6 per cent do not have N- or O-level qualifications.

    • 26.2 per cent were employed and 24 per cent were seeking employment.

    • 41.4 per cent were married.

    • More than half had households of one to two persons.

    • They lived in one- to four-room HDB flats.

    • 58.3 per cent had elderly and/or young beneficiaries below 21 in the household.

    ComCare Long Term Assistance

    • Almost 90 per cent were aged 60 and above.

    • More than three-quarters had primary or no formal educational qualifications.

    • 71.3 per cent were single and 11.7 per cent were widowed.

    • 64.9 per cent were male.

    • Most lived in one- or two-room HDB flats and were one-person households.

    Kok Xing Hui

In a blog post yesterday, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin wrote: "If one is unemployed for one reason or other, I can understand the financial challenges faced. What we need to understand further is the group where the main applicants are employed, and yet still require financial assistance.

"Do we help them re-skill or even upgrade their skills so that they take on better jobs and earn higher wages? Do we strengthen Workfare and the Progressive Wage Model further?"

Ms Petrine Lim, principal social worker at Fei Yue Family Service Centre, said people with jobs may still need financial assistance for a number of reasons.

"Some cannot work for long hours because of back problems, other health problems, some are employed but lowly educated so they cannot support the family, some are big families with young children so one parent has to stay at home," she said.

For Mr Tan the taxi driver, his single income is compounded by health issues and he cannot go for Workforce Development Agency upgrading courses because these take place at night, when he is working.

"They advised my wife to work, but how to when we have three children?" he told The Straits Times.

Their youngest son, seven, also has mild autism and needs his mother's help to keep up in his mainstream primary school.

The family tried to live without ComCare - which gives them an extra $400 a month - for three months and managed to scrape by.

But things worsened in August when Mr Tan was diagnosed with high cholesterol alongside his existing hypertension, and needed to spend even more on medication. That was when the family went back to ComCare for help.

Now, Mr Tan is trying to sell his five-room flat to buy a smaller one so he will not have to pay housing loans and he can get off ComCare.

From 2012 to last year, men made up 65 per cent of ComCare Long Term Assistance beneficiaries, and seven out of 10 of the scheme's beneficiaries were single, while one out of 10 was widowed.

Those on long-term assistance were also older, with 86 per cent over 60. Most of them had no formal or primary education.

"We all know that our society is ageing, and we may see more vulnerable elderly among us," wrote minister Tan.

"The financial challenge is but one of several... Apart from ensuring that the financial support is effective, we need to also strengthen our overall eco-system to look after the elderly."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2015, with the headline 'Quarter of those getting ComCare funds are employed'. Print Edition | Subscribe