Support for less fortunate quite strong here

I refer to the Oxfam report on Singapore's effort to tackle inequality (Oxfam, DFI urge countries to do more to tackle inequality; Oct 9).

As a former volunteer with the Roman Catholic Prison Ministry, I have come to know and made friends with many former prisoners and their families - many of whom come from poor families.

My experience suggests that even though, like all countries, we have many poor people, their problems are much better taken care of in Singapore.

I know of a former prisoner who went to a polyclinic for a prostate problem. He was immediately sent to Tan Tock Seng Hospital. The hospital treated not only his prostate condition, but also a gastric problem which he was not aware of.

What shocked me was that not only did he not have to pay for the treatments, but all his follow-up consultations and medications were also free.

Apparently this happened after he was interviewed by a social worker at the hospital, who took the view that he was poor.

In another case, a former prisoner's mother, who is on welfare and lives on government subsidies, went to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital for her heart condition.

The doctor, when treating her heart condition, realised she was hard of hearing and made an appointment for her to see an ear, nose and throat specialist. She was pleasantly surprised when they gave her a $2,000 hearing aid without her asking for it or having to pay for it.

I am also the vice-chairman of a charity called Clarity Singapore, set up to help people with mental illnesses.

This year, we decided to start two new programmes - to help youth and to help women suffering from pre-or post-natal mental problems.

The board and I were very concerned as to whether we would be able to raise enough funds to run these two new programmes.

I was very pleasantly surprised when the Government agreed to give us substantial support to fund these programmes after we explained what we intended to do.

The above are but a few examples. I am sure others who are involved with the less-fortunate members of our society will agree with my experiences.

Joseph Tan Peng Chin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2018, with the headline 'Support for less fortunate quite strong here'. Print Edition | Subscribe