ComCare aid: Important to look beyond statistics

Between 14,000 and 16,000 households received ComCare Short-to-Medium Term Assistance (SMTA) at any time between 2015 and 2017, said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee in Parliament yesterday.

He was replying to Mr Louis Ng's (Nee Soon GRC) request for SMTA first-time applicant numbers over the last five years.

Mr Lee added that while five-year data was not available, about 25 per cent of households among those whose SMTA ended in 2016 reapplied and received it within 12 months. The median monthly assistance quantum that a household on SMTA received was about $400, and the median duration of assistance in a year was about six months.

These figures exclude other forms of government assistance and subsidies that households could be receiving, such as Medifund for medical expenses, subsidised rental housing, financial assistance for school fees, or childcare subsidies.

ComCare is part of the multiple layers of assistance provided by the Government to support low-income individuals and families. Households that require help to tide over a period of financial difficulty are provided with ComCare (SMTA).

Depending on the needs of the household, the Ministry of Social and Family Development's social service offices may provide cash, help with household and medical bills, or refer people to agencies such as Workforce Singapore for job assistance or family services centres for further support.

"Beyond these statistics, it is important to understand the challenges families face in overcoming their issues, and the support that will help sustain their self-reliance," said Mr Lee.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2019, with the headline ComCare aid: Important to look beyond statistics. Subscribe