President's Challenge to set aside $10 million for customised support for the disadvantaged

President Halimah Yacob launched this year's President's Challenge at Downtown East on Sunday, along with a $10 million fund to help low-income individuals improve their employability. ST PHOTO: SAMANTHA BOH

SINGAPORE - More customised support is on the cards to give disadvantaged individuals, including low-income families, a leg up.

A sum of $10 million will be spent over the next five years for programmes that will, for instance, equip family members with skills that will help them find jobs or take on new roles.

Announcing the new Empowering for Life Fund on Sunday (Feb 11), President Halimah Yacob said: "We want to be able to handhold the most disadvantaged families on their journeys to improve their circumstances.

"This way, we can help them bounce back quickly from setbacks and stay adaptable."

Madam Halimah, who also launched this year's President's Challenge on Sunday, said under her charge the annual community outreach and fund-raising campaign will largely focus on empowering the vulnerable.

She noted that support for the less fortunate has to move beyond generic schemes and programmes, and instead develop more customised support.

As a start, the fund, which will be financed by the President's Challenge, will help 50 families through a newly set up LIFT-UP Pathfinder programme.

The programme will be jointly developed by the President's Challenge, NTUC and the Employment and Employability Institute.

Under the programme, the families will get to attend fully-funded training courses, which will be customised to meet their needs. The courses will help them improve their abilities in areas such as language and IT, over a four- to six-month period.

They will also get to attend motivational talks and take part in family-bonding activities.

Each family will be paired with a team of volunteers, who will guide them through the course of the programme.

Madam Halimah said the programme will be extended to more families if the pilot is successful.

Senior Patient Service Associate Chan Nget Hoong, 46, intends to sign up for the programme, in hopes that it will help her upgrade her skills and help her children land their dream jobs.

She wants to be a nurse, while her son, Yeo Chong Han, 19, wants to be an entrepreneur and her daughter, Yeo Hui Ling, 16, a lab technician. She has another daughter who turns two this year.

"I hope LIFT-UP Pathfinder can offer more customised support that help point my children in the right direction, bolster their career aspirations and bring them a better paying job," said Madam Chan.

She also hopes the programme will help her husband find a steady job. He lost his job as a chef six months ago and currently works as a private hire driver. This caused their household income to drop by half to about $2,000.

This year's President's Challenge will also be raising money for 59 organisations, which range from those which provide healthcare services to those which help people with disabilities.

Madam Halimah noted that more people have been stepping forward to volunteer for the President's Challenge, from retirees to students. More than 87,000 people have volunteered since 2012.

She said the President's Challenge is fundamentally about "Singaporeans partnering one another to build a home we want".

"A home where we care for each other; a community where we give each other a leg up and empower everyone for life; a nation where we move forward together," she said.

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