Record $116 million given out to help the needy in Singapore

A record sum of $116 million in social assistance payments were made to the poor in the last financial year ending in March 2015.
A record sum of $116 million in social assistance payments were made to the poor in the last financial year ending in March 2015. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - A record sum of $116 million in social assistance payments were made to the poor in the last financial year ending in March 2015.

This was a 10 per cent jump from the previous year and close to double the $61 million given out five years ago.

About half of the money came from interest generated by the Community Care (ComCare) Endowment Fund, set up by the Government in 2005 to help needy families get back on their feet. The rest came from the budget of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

Overall, 91,093 individuals were helped last year, up from 54,041 five years ago.

ComCare provides three broad types of assistance: long-term help, largely for the elderly poor; interim as well as short-to-medium term help for those facing crises, such as illness or retrenchment; childcare, kindergarten and infant care subsidies for children.

The biggest jump last year was in short-term payouts, which rose from $55.7million in 2013 to $68.7 million last year, said the latest ComCare annual report.

A demographic breakdown of those receiving short-to-medium term assistance showed an increase in the proportion of those living in one to two-persons households.

Spending on long-term help grew slightly to $18.7 million last year, up from $17.3 million the year before. Data from the report showed that 65 per cent of recipients on long-term assistance are single elderly.

In a newly created blog, MSF Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said: "The increase (in ComCare financial assistance) is not too surprising because we have increased our efforts in the last few years to bring help closer to those in need."

He added: "We have built a network of Social Service Offices (SSOs) across the island - one in every major HDB town. This has made help more accessible than before. We have also adjusted some of our income criteria thresholds so that more can be assisted."

Given the backdrop of an ageing society, Mr Tan said, tackling financial challenges is just the tip of the iceberg.

"Apart from ensuring that the financial support is effective, we need to also strengthen our overall eco-system to look after the elderly. We are already exploring different initiatives and looking at how to better design the social and physical infrastructure. We will also be introducing the Vulnerable Adults Act, and make amendments to the Mental Capacity Act next year."