Workfare helps guard buy new computer for poly-bound son

Having $200 more in your pocket might not sound much to some but it proved a huge bonus for security guard Wong Seow Eng last year.

Mr Wong’s 16-year-old son was in Secondary 4 and had a chance at getting into polytechnic but the lack of a computer at home was a concern.

Cash was tight but help came in the form of a higher Workfare payment. The Workfare Income Supplement Scheme was announced in the 2007 Budget and aims to supplement the wages of older low-wage workers.

Mr Wong’s $1,800 salary last year would have disqualified him from receiving Workfare but the monthly income ceiling was raised in the last Budget from $1,700 to $1,900, allowing him to be eligible for a payout.

With the Workfare payment and savings, Mr Wong, 61, managed to buy a new desktop for his son last year. It cost him $1,600, “but it was worth it", he said.

While Workfare helps, Mr Wong also believes in upgrading his skills. He took a course last year on using hand-held scanners and his employer Soverus raised his salary to $1,900, putting him to work at a Orchard Road condo.

The extra income goes into saving for household expenses. While his wife works as a kitchen helper, the couple have to support Mr Wong’s 89-year-old father and two brothers - one is mentally handicapped and the other is paralysed from the waist down following an illness.

Singapore’s Budget last year focused on inclusive and quality growth and the strengthening of social safety nets. Mr Wong hopes the Budget next week will be in the same vein, offering more help with medical expenses. His wife who suffered an eye injury paid $90 for a visit to the clinic. “It is a big sum for poor families,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Wong’s son had good news for his father last week: He scored 18 points in his O levels and secured a place at Republic Polytechnic which he will join in April. "He will have a shot at having a better future than me," said a beaming Mr Wong, who has only primary six education.