TL;DR – Many helping hands provide sufficient assistance.
There have been two posts going around that suggest that two poor people in Singapore aren’t getting enough financial assistance.
Case 1: Martha, student studying in ITE
The first post is about a “Martha” (not her real name) who is studying in ITE. According to the post, Martha and her family face challenges, including not having enough money to buy school bags and for transport to school.
In the post, it was also mentioned that Martha’s financial assistance has run out and they were in the process of reapplying.
Case 2: Elderly man who’s visually handicapped and has kidney failure
The second post is about a 59-year old man whose application for long term financial assistance was rejected.
At first glance, it seemed that the application was rejected because the man is receiving a $620 monthly payout from his CPF. The man is is visually handicapped, who has kidney failure and who has been declared medically unfit to work.
Both getting a lot of help
It seems like these two individuals aren’t getting enough financial assistance. Why doesn’t the government give them more help? Has the government failed them?
It would be tempting to come to that conclusion. But that would be the wrong conclusion.
In the case of Martha, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) have been providing her, her mother, and her half siblings ComCare Assistance on a monthly basis since February 2015. Since then till now, MSF have given them financial support in cash of around $52,700, assisted them with their HDB rental totalling $1,760, help with their utilities totalling $4,380, and S&CC assistance of around $800. More importantly, the assistance is ongoing and there weren’t any periods of time where the assistance was suspended.
In addition to the assistance by MSF, Martha, her mother, and her half siblings also get help from various other sources. They get free medical treatment at public hospitals and polyclinics. MOE provides financial assistance for Martha’s half-siblings. For her studies in ITE, Martha got a total of $3,500 in 2017 and 2018 from bursaries and other financial assistance. Local PA grassroots organisations also provide various financial assistance and food rations for Martha and her family. Beyond Social Services provides the family with counselling by a social worker.
In the case of the elderly man who is visually handicap and has kidney failure, it turns out that in addition to the $620 of CPF monthly payouts, the man also receives an additional $550 a month from a close friend who lives overseas. A Buddhist temple pays for the monthly rent of his two-room Housing Board flat, which is $50 a month, as well as conservancy fees. His weekly dialysis charges and taxi trips to the dialysis centre are fully covered by the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), and he also receives full subsidy for his medical treatment at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
In addition, TOUCH Home Care provides him with two meals a day, while the Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped provides him with monthly food rations. The Toa Payoh Central Grassroots Organisations also provided financial assistance for him between February to April this year. Put all these together, this elderly man probably has enough to live a dignified live.
Singapore’s model – the “many helping hands” approach
So, as you can see, there is a lot of help being provided in both of these cases. Yes, not all of that help come from the government. But that’s how things work in Singapore. In assessing the sort of assistance to provide, MSF takes into account all the funds and overall support given by the Government, the community, family and friends to the applicant as well as the applicant’s needs. This is the many helping hands approach.
In most cases, when the many helping hands come together, those who need help do get sufficient assistance. Once in a while, there may be cases that slip through the cracks because the many helping hands need more coordination. That’s where MSF’s Social Service Offices (SSO’s) come in.
Just as in Martha’s case, the SSO’s often work closely with cases they know of to make sure that those who need assistance get the support they need. This support may not all come from the government, but the SSO’s will find the right sources of assistance. What’s important is to make sure that the SSO’s know about the people who need help.
So, if you know of anyone who know of someone in need please call the ComCare hotline at 1800-222-0000 or approach the nearest MSF SSO ( you can find the nearest MSF SSO using this link or Family Service Centre for help.
The government plays a pivotal role in ensuring all those in need get sufficient assistance. But we can, and should, help too.
(Featured image via)