TL;DR – Here’s how your GST goes to help lower income families.
Down but not out
After “escaping” her complicated family background at the tender age of 18 years old, Janna thought she could start a new life with her boyfriend and their first child. Alas, their relationship could not stand the test of time. After years of heartbreak, trying to make marriage work and a few children later, Janna is a single mum shouldering the responsibility of providing for her family.
As the sole breadwinner, life can be quite tough.
“I have to take care of all the children 24/7 – make sure the laundry is done, meals are cooked, do grocery shopping, make sure homework/spelling is done and send all 4 children to 2 different schools. Inbetween, I will try to work part time. I used to work for F&B places, now I work part-time as an admin at a school for $7 an hour and also do food delivery.”
Stretching the dollar
Even though Janna tries to take on more work, she still lives each month hand to mouth.
Expenses for the 4 children and herself can amount to quite a sum every month, with Janna spending a few hundred purely on groceries and necessities such as shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper etc. She has to shell out some cash for some the children’s schooling expenses, topping up their ez-link card and additional pocket money. She plans her cooking carefully to make sure she maximises her groceries.
Janna sadly has an almost non-existent family support structure. This means she cannot rely on relatives to help with her children. Her own older children sometimes help to pick up the younger ones from school. She laments: “Sometimes they ask me – mummy why must I go home at this time or why must we stay home to take care of the younger ones, why cannot go and play?”. I sense her guilt… a mother’s guilt that her older children have no choice but to grow up faster.
Every bit of financial assistance helps
Thankfully, financial support she receives from the Government helps to ease some burden. Her children are on the Ministry of Education’s Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) and get subsidies for school fees, transport, free textbooks and a token sum for recess. The Social Service Office (SSO) gives her $1000 a month to help with basic necessities.
This year’s Budget announced a Care and Support Package. Janna qualifies for $400 in cash for Care & Support, $100 grocery vouchers and S&CC Rebates.
Her household also qualifies for the permanent GST Voucher Scheme which helps lower income households defray GST expenses. This year, Janna’s family would get $1000 for GST Voucher – U Save and $300 in GST Voucher- Cash. In this manner of social transfer, what Janna’s household receives in GST Vouchers is way more than the GST she pays for her necessities in a year.
“I’m so thankful and grateful for all the financial assistance as the family is dependent on it. But of course, in the long run, we hope not to depend on Government assistance, but on our own capabilities.”
Education the way to go
Despite dropping out before her N -Levels, Janna firmly believes in a good education.
“Honestly, I feel sad that I was not given the opportunity to study further back then. I tell all my children to study hard, I put them in after-school care and tuition because I want them to have the drive to succeed. With proper education, there will be a wider range of opportunities available.”
Janna is also walking the talk. In-between taking care of her children and her part-time work, she’s recently managed to complete her Nitec course in business services. This took her two grueling years of twice a week classes.
And she is not stopping. After a short breather, she intends to enroll in the October intake for Higher Nitec to study Human Resources and Admin. She hopes this will open up more job opportunities for her to provide for her family.
First and foremost a mother
“My kids are my inner strength – I can move on because of them.”
Janna shared that there were many times where she broke down when managing the household and caring for all the children while juggling work and school got too much. But she would look at her children and remember that they are the loved ones she is doing this for. She hopes her story encourages other single mothers in the same situation – that things will get better.
The next time you complain that having children drains you – remember Janna and her efforts to hold the family of 5 together.
The next time you complain about a dead end job – remember Janna and how all she wants is an employer to give her a chance.
The next time you complain that groceries have increased in price – remember Janna and how she has to stretch her dollar.
The next time you complain about GST – remember how it then gets funneled to lower income and needy families like Janna’s.
Indeed, all of us have much to be grateful for.
The Dive: I can’t be the ONLY one who doesn’t get why we need GST!