Close to 80,000 people received financial aid through ComCare in the past year

The bulk of ComCare recipients, about 64,400 individuals, were on Short-To-Medium-Term Assistance in the last financial year. PHOTO: MASAGOS ZULKIFLI/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - More people received financial assistance from the Government in the past year, with about 78,600 individuals benefiting from the various ComCare schemes, saidthe Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) on Friday (Oct 9).

According to the MSF's ComCare Annual Report, there was an increase of about 4 per cent in the number of financial aid recipients in its last financial year (FY2019) - which ended on March 31, 2020 - from the year before.

The Government gave out $151 million in cash assistance through the ComCare schemes in FY 2019. This represents a 19 per cent jump from the 2018 financial year and is the largest sum disbursed in the past five years.

The Community Care Endowment Fund (ComCare Fund) is a key social safety net for lower-income families and comprises schemes such as the Short-To-Medium-Term Assistance (SMTA) and Long-Term Assistance (LTA).

Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for Social and Family Development, said: "There has been a broad-based increase in the number of people who received ComCare support in the last financial year. We have also seen a significant increase of 20 to 30 per cent in ComCare applications in recent months, compared to the same period last year.

"As social needs grow and economic outlook remains uncertain, we will continue to reach out to those in need and focus our resources on those with greater needs."

The increase in ComCare recipients was driven largely by an about 5 per cent rise of SMTA recipients. SMTA provides temporary financial aid and other forms of help to tide recipients through tough times as they are looking for a job or are ill, among other reasons.

The bulk of ComCare recipients, about 64,400 individuals, were on SMTA in the last financial year.

At the same time, the number of individuals on the Interim Assistance Schemes increased by about 16 per cent to about 7,700 in the last financial year.

The Interim Assistance Schemes are administered by social service offices and other community groups - such as family service centres - to provide immediate financial aid to those who require urgent and temporary financial relief.

About 9,600 children received Student Care Fee Assistance in the last financial year, about 6 per cent higher than the year before, due to more student care centres being set up in schools, the MSF said.

The only scheme to buck the rising trend was the Long-Term Assistance scheme, also known as Public Assistance, which provides a cash sum to the destitute who cannot work as a result of old age or illness and have little or no family support.

The number of individuals on Long-Term Assistance fell by about 3 per cent to about 4,400 in the last financial year.

Mr Koh Phee Kai, 70, has been on the Long-Term Assistance scheme since 2016. He receives $418 a month. The bachelor applied for financial aid after being retrenched from his security guard job in 2015.

He also gets $260 a month from his Central Provident Fund and uses the money to pay for his expenses.

"The sum I receive now is less than half of what I used to earn when I was working. But I cannot work anymore, because of my bladder and bowel incontinence, so I have to rely on these payouts," said Mr Koh, who lives alone in a one-room rental flat.

To tide Singaporeans through this recession, the MSF has automatically extended by six months the Comcare scheme for beneficiaries whose aid is due for review by this month. New beneficiaries will also generally receive at least six months of assistance.

Mr Masagos said: " Households in public rental flats formed half of the recipients, reinforcing the need to continue our ongoing outreach through the SG Cares community networks. The MSF will continue to work together with government agencies and community partners to make help available and accessible to Singaporeans in need."

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