Family has been getting help, and will continue to do so: MSF

Ministry details assistance available to needy family featured in The Sunday Times report

Sam (not his real name), pictured with his wife, told The Sunday Times his family have only $200 left to last them over the next three weeks. ST FILE PHOTO
Sam (not his real name), pictured with his wife, told The Sunday Times his family have only $200 left to last them over the next three weeks. ST FILE PHOTO

A family of six that was reported as having been left with $200 for three weeks has been - and will be - getting a range of assistance from the Government and various community partners.

They have been getting ComCare assistance of $1,200 in cash every month since last month. ComCare separately covers their Housing Board flat rent, utilities, service and conservancy charges, and medical expenses.

And from May 4, they will get $2,300 in cash in ComCare assistance every month for six months, as the father has lost his job since he was last assessed by the social service office (SSO).

This information came to light in a Facebook post by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) yesterday in response to an article in The Sunday Times on April 19 headlined "$200 left with family of 6 to get through 3 weeks".

The article, part of a report on how low-income families were affected by Covid-19, highlighted the family, which comprises Sam (not his real name), his wife, and their four school-going children.

The Sunday Times spoke to Sam on April 10. He showed documents to back his account. He said he had been helping his mother, a school canteen vendor, but his unstable daily allowance was gone when all schools were closed since April 8.

Many readers voiced concern over why the family was left with only $200 until their next ComCare payout next month, MSF noted in its post.

"We are encouraged by the public's outpouring of offers of assistance to the family. Indeed, during this pandemic, many low-income households will be badly affected, and we need to coordinate and pull together to support them," it said.

"As for 'Sam' and his family, MSF, along with our community partners, schools and grassroots organisations, have been helping them before the circuit breaker period, and will continue to do so."

MSF outlined the support the family has been getting, noting they were first assisted with ComCare in September 2010. Most recently, they received assistance of $1,200 on April 3 to support their daily needs, including food and groceries.

As Sam had lost his job since he was last assessed by the SSO, he and his family will get $2,300 a month from May 4, for six months.

CONTINUED HELP

We are encouraged by the public's outpouring of offers of assistance to the family. Indeed, during this pandemic, many low-income households will be badly affected, and we need to coordinate and pull together to support them. As for 'Sam' and his family, MSF, along with our community partners, schools and grassroots organisations, have been helping them before the circuit breaker period, and will continue to do so.

MINISTRY OF SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT, in a Facebook post.

To support the family before the increased ComCare payout next month, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore has also provided them with emergency assistance of $300 cash and $120 in vouchers.

Both husband and wife also got $1,200 in Solidarity Payments from the Ministry of Finance, together with all Singaporeans, on April 14.

Community partners Mendaki and Al-Muttaqin Mosque are also supporting the family.

They had reached out to the family before the closure of mosques, and the mosque continues to check in on them, MSF added.

In addition, the family's four children are on the Ministry of Education's (MOE) financial assistance scheme. They do not need to pay school fees, and they get full subsidies for standard miscellaneous fees. Their meals in school are also covered.

 
 
 
 

During the circuit breaker period, the children are further supported by MOE's extended school meal subsidies - $60 for each primary school student and $120 for each secondary school student - and additional subsidies of $20 from public donations for each primary school-going child.

They will also get top-ups to their School Smartcard, which the family can use to buy food and essential groceries at some hawker centres, foodcourts, minimarts, convenience stores and supermarkets.

Each of the primary school-going children also gets $60 every month from The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.

Other community partners such as Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre (FSC) and Food from the Heart provide monthly food rations to the family, MSF added.

The SSO@Ang Mo Kio is linking them to the Community Development Council to place them on the Student Meals scheme, which gives meal vouchers. Also, the grassroots in Kebun Baru is working on giving the family halal dinners, with delivery if needed.

Schools and others, including Ang Mo Kio FSC, have offered laptops and tablets to support the children's home-based learning, MSF said. The family had previously turned down the schools' offer, it noted, and recently collected a tablet from the FSC. The SSO is coordinating with the schools, FSC and Mendaki to provide laptops for the family.

MSF said the SSO had earlier arranged for Sam to meet the Employment and Employability Institute in February, but he did not turn up. The SSO will continue to reach out to him to guide and support him on employment support.

Ang Mo Kio FSC and We Care Community Services also provide the family support with counselling and studies, the ministry added.

Yesterday, MSF said it had contacted Sam on Sunday to assess if his family needed further support.

Sam shared he had not left any voice messages on the SSO's main line or his case worker's direct line, and was not expecting a reply from the SSO, the ministry added.

"Nevertheless, we have encouraged the family to approach our SSOs any time they require further assistance. Our SSO colleagues and community partners will continue to look out for Sam and his family, and support them," MSF said.

Building an inclusive and caring society is a collective effort, MSF added. It also encouraged people who would like to volunteer to support lower-income households or other vulnerable groups to send MSF a private message via its Facebook page.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2020, with the headline 'Family has been getting help, and will continue to do so: MSF'. Subscribe