The Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) will ease the qualification criteria for its help schemes from January next year. More needy families will benefit, with the monthly income threshold lifted from $1,900 to $2,400.
The CDAC announced the move yesterday, and said the per capita income criterion will also rise from $650 to $800.
With these changes, the CDAC projects that about 1,500 new families will benefit from its schemes, and about 1,500 families who are already on its programmes will qualify for even more support.
The CDAC is a self-help group for the Chinese community that provides learning support for students through tuition and other enrichment programmes.
In another change, beneficiaries from more disadvantaged families will receive deeper support on a more sustained basis, the organisation said. It will "make adjustments to extend assistance on a multi-year basis" to families who need greater support.
For example, a child from a family facing long-term financial and job challenges could be given a three-year continuous bursary. Currently, bursaries have to be applied for and are disbursed yearly.
This will be on a case-by-case basis, and case workers will be given room to exercise judgment, the CDAC added.
Families with a monthly household income of $4,000 and below, or a per capita income of $1,200 and below, will also be eligible for certain programme subsidies after the criteria revision. The thresholds now are $3,300 and $900, respectively.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who is also the CDAC board chairman, said: "While we will continue to expand outreach and offer quality programmes to more low-income families, we are identifying the more disadvantaged families to provide them with holistic and deepened support.
"The objective is to ensure social mobility within the Chinese community, and recognising that education for children and stable jobs for parents are the best ways to bring this about."
Easier now to secure multi-year assistance
Every August, housewife Chua Siew Tin has to compile a raft of documents detailing her family's Central Provident Fund contribution history, among other things, so that she can apply for bursaries from the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) for her children to pay their fees and other school expenses.
Her oldest daughter, aged 17, suffers from chronic asthma, and she has three other children aged 16, 14 and seven. Her husband is an assistant at a hawker stall.
Another financial burden is the mortgage on their flat in Commonwealth that sets them back about $600 each month.
Mrs Chua, 44, welcomed the CDAC's move to extend multi-year help to families who need more sustained assistance. The adjustments mean that she no longer has to go through the hassle of applying for bursaries every year, as her children may get them now for several years.
Mrs Chua said: "It may not sound like it makes a big difference, but it saves us a lot of trouble - we are also receiving help under the Ministry of Education's financial assistance scheme - as we don't have to fill out so many forms.
"It is actually very worrying to have to keep thinking about things like whether our application will go through every year. At least now, there is one load off my mind."
Similar self-help groups serving other communities include the Eurasian Association, Singapore Indian Development Association and Yayasan Mendaki.
Speaking further to reporters on the sidelines of CDAC's annual general meeting yesterday, Mr Ong said that last year, the CDAC managed more than 800 cases that gave customised help to vulnerable families.
He added: "CDAC operates on a small scale. But that means our case workers can have a deeper relationship with our beneficiaries, and we can be flexible in the kind of help we provide."