Number of destitute elderly on long-term government financial aid continues to rise

Social workers say the number will continue to rise given the rapidly ageing population.
Social workers say the number will continue to rise given the rapidly ageing population.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - With a rapidly ageing society, the number of destitute elderly who depend on government financial aid continues to rise.

A total of 4,387 households were on the long term assistance scheme during the Ministry of Social and Family Development's last financial year, which ended in March (2017). This is more than the 4,248 households in the 2015 financial year and 28 per cent more than the 3,420 households in the 2012 financial year.

The numbers on the scheme, which is also known as the public assistance scheme, rose each year in the past five years. Social workers say that the numbers will continue to rise given the rapidly ageing population and there is no limit to the length of aid provided under the scheme, as it is for those who cannot work due to old age, illness or unfavourable family circumstances.

Ms Joyz Tan, senior social worker at Fei Yue Community Services, say some of these elderly have children but their children cannot afford to support them, as they are low income earners themselves and have their own children to feed. In some cases, the elderly may be estranged from their loved ones.

One person on the public assistance scheme gets $500 a month, plus other forms of help such as free medical treatment at polyclinics and Government hospitals.

According to the Comcare Trends Report released on Friday (Dec 8), the largest proportion of those on long term assistance were aged 65 and older, had primary or lower level of education and were single.