The story about the family of 6 with less than $200 left is misleading and biased, here’s why:

TL;DR – There’s more than meets the eye.

Last Sunday (Apr 19), Straits Times published a Sunday Times news report titled “Coronavirus: $200 left with family of 6 to get through 3 weeks”.

The article, hidden behind a paywall, reported that Sam (not his real name) was in dire straits, with only $200 left for his wife and four children to get through the next three weeks, until his next cash payout from the ComCare assistance scheme in May.

It is also mentioned in the article that Sam had tried calling the Social Service Offices hotline on his financial aid document, but his calls were seldom answered.

In response to this, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has since posted their clarification on this matter in a Facebook post on Apr 23.

According to MSF, Sam and his family have been receiving a whole slew of support from MSF, its community partners, schools, and grassroots organisations even before the Circuit Breaker period.

Here’s a list of support which Sam and his family have been receiving:

ComCare and financial assistance

Sam’s family was first assisted with ComCare in September 2010.

Since March 2020, they have been receiving ComCare assistance of $1,200 in cash every month.

Also, ComCare separately covers their HDB rent, utilities, service & conservancy charges, and medical expenses.

The family most recently received ComCare assistance on 3 April 2020 to support their daily needs, including food and groceries.

Additional support and assistance

Sam had apparently lost his job since he was last assessed by the Social Service Office (SSO). As such, he and his family will receive $2300 in monthly ComCare assistance from 4 May 2020, for six months.

On top of this, before the increased ComCare in May, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) has also provided them with Zakat Emergency Assistance of $300 cash and $120 in vouchers, to support the family.

On 14 April 2020, husband and wife received $1200 in Solidarity Payments from the Ministry of Finance.

Community partners, Mendaki and Al-Muttaqin Mosque, are also supporting the family. They had reached out to the family before the closure of mosques, and the mosque continues to check in on the family.

MOE Financial Assistance Scheme

MSF also clarified that Sam’s four children are recipients of the MOE Financial Assistance Scheme.

In other words, the family does not need to pay school fees and receive full subsidies for standard miscellaneous fees. Their meals in school are covered as well.

The children are further supported by MOE’s extended school meal subsidies ($60 for each primary school student and $120 for each secondary school student) during the Circuit Breaker period, and additional subsidies of $20 from public donations are also given to each primary school-going child.

Besides, they will receive top-ups to their School Smartcard which the family can use to purchase food and essential groceries at some hawker centres, food courts, minimarts, convenience stores, and supermarkets.

Each of the primary school-going children also receives $60 monthly from The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.

Food and meals for the family

Other community partners, such as Ang Mo Kio Family Services Centre (FSC) and Food from the Heart, provide monthly food rations to the family.

SSO@Ang Mo Kio (SSO@AMK) is also linking Sam’s family up with the Community Development Council (CDC) to place the family on the Student Meals scheme, which provides them with meal vouchers.

Additionally, Kebun Baru Grassroots is also working on providing halal dinners for the family, and have offered them food delivery if they require it.

Laptops for home-based learning

Sam’s children’s schools and several community partners, including AMK FSC, have offered to support his children’s home-based learning by providing them with laptops/tablets.

The family previously turned down the schools’ offer and recently collected a tablet from AMKFSC.

SSO@AMK is coordinating with the schools, FSC and Mendaki on the provision of laptops for the family.

Employment assistance and counselling

To assist Sam with his employment, SSO@AMK had earlier arranged for “Sam” to meet with the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) for employment assistance in February 2020.

However, MSF clarified that Sam did not turn up for the appointment.

Nevertheless, SSO@AMK will continue to reach out to him to provide guidance and support on employment, and together with Ang Mo Kio FSC and WE CARE Community Services, they will continue to provide the family with counselling support and study programmes to support their various needs.

Boy, that’s a long list of support for Sam’s family, don’t you think so?

But why aren’t these mentioned in the Sunday Times news report?

Was the article written with the intent to mislead and undermine the efforts of the various organisations that have been trying so hard to help the family through various avenues? Why though?

Here’s the tea

A Facebook post which has been circulating online seems to suggest that the biased reporting could have something to do with the two journalists – Tee Zhuo and Janice Tai – who wrote the article.

According to the netizen who tipped Facebook page SG Sinkies Confessions off, she alleged that the two said journalists had some grudges against the establishment.

Apparently, Tai was involved in an Official Secrets Act (OSA) case, where she had used her “personal relationship” to “pull a story out of” an HDB officer, who thought he was in a romantic relationship with her.

While the other journalist Zhuo probably had his own issues with the Government.

You can read the full post below:

Not sure about you, but it doesn’t matter whether or not the biased reporting was done due to personal motivations.

To me, spinning sob stories at the expense of others and deliberately omitting facts to attract eyeballs is a big no-no, especially if you call yourself a professional journalist.



Two sides to Uncle Luke’s story and that old story about the Tiong Bahru cardboard collector


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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

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