Debate on ministries’ budgets

Needy Singaporeans to get more in monthly aid

Madam Lee Ah Chah, 77, who lives alone in a rental flat, will get $600 a month now. She is divorced and estranged from her sons.
Madam Lee Ah Chah, 77, who lives alone in a rental flat, will get $600 a month now. She is divorced and estranged from her sons.ST PHOTO: SAHIBA CHAWDHARY

Needy Singaporeans will get more financial aid each month from the Government.

From July 1, a single person on the ComCare Long-Term Assistance scheme will get $600 a month, up from $500. Two-person households will get $1,000 a month, up from $870 now.

The scheme, also known as Public Assistance, provides a cash sum each month to destitute persons who cannot work permanently as a result of old age or illness, and have little or no family support.

Most are elderly Singaporeans, and recipients also get other help, such as with their medical bills. The increase in Long-Term Assistance quantums will benefit some 4,000 households.

Recipients of Long-Term Assistance will get help as long as they remain eligible for the scheme.

New beneficiaries of the ComCare Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance (SMTA) and those who have their SMTA aid renewed after July 1 can also expect more money.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said in Parliament yesterday: "We also provide ComCare Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance to help families tide over difficult times and regain stability. For example, those whose breadwinners are temporarily unable to work, looking for jobs or earning a low income may receive temporary support.

"We have similarly reviewed ComCare SMTA to keep pace with living expenses and changes in expenditure patterns."

Mr Lee said the amounts given to SMTA recipients vary, depen-ding on their needs and financial circumstances.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF) spokes-man gave an example of a family of two living in a one-room HDB rental flat with one person earning $500 from working part-time, and the family getting about $360 a month from the SMTA to supplement their income.

The household can expect an increase of about $200 in aid from July.

The length of monetary aid given also varies from case to case, but in a parliamentary reply last month, the MSF said a median sum of about $400 was given to families on the SMTA each month, and the median length of help received was about six months. From 2015 to 2017, between 14,000 and 16,000 households received the SMTA at any point in time.

Mr Lee announced the increases in ComCare quantums in response to questions from Dr Lily Neo (Jalan Besar GRC) and Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC), who asked about the efforts to strengthen the aid given to vulnerable families.

Mr Lee said that in the past decade, the MSF has reviewed and adjusted the ComCare rates every two to three years. The last review was in 2016.

Mr Seah also asked if ComCare reviews and increments could be made more frequently, and Mr Lee said he would consider the suggestion.

For Madam Lee Ah Chah, 77, an extra $100 is very good news. She now gets $500 each month from the Public Assistance scheme.

She is divorced, estranged from her two sons and lives alone in a two-room rental flat. She stopped work as a cleaner over a decade ago to take care of her ailing mother.

She suffers from asthma and other illnesses, and said it is hard to find a job, given her age and health, even if she wants to work.

To make ends meet, she is very thrifty and often cooks simple meals. Fish and seafood are a luxury, she said.

"I am very thankful to the Government. With more money, I can buy better food at times to treat myself. I also hope to save some money for emergency use."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2019, with the headline 'Needy Singaporeans to get more in monthly aid'. Print Edition | Subscribe