Can eligibility criteria for PA scheme could be made more “humane”? Chan Chun Sing’s non-answer

Posted by theonlinecitizen on January 11, 2012

~by: Leong Sze Hian~

I refer to the article “MPs urged to tell MCYS about those in need”  (Today, Jan10). The article quoted Acting Minister for MCYS (Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports), Mr Chan Chun Sing as saying “We are constantly looking at various ways to help all Singaporeans in need. This includes not just the PA(Public Assistance) scheme but in all our schemes. We are constantly reviewing the criteria that we use to assess the eligibility of our  people”.

I have a question for MCYS. “Was any review of the PA eligibility criteria done in the last five years?”

I believe the answer will be “No”. Now another question. “Has the PA eligibility criteria been reviewed and changed in the last 10 years or so?” I think the answer may be “Never”.

Reply, but not answer?

In making that statement, the Acting Minister was responding to Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Lily Neo who asked if the eligibility criteria for PA scheme could be made more “humane” to help more people with long-term needs. But did Mr Chan actually answer Ms Neo? I don’t think so.

In this connection, I understand that the PA is the only long-term welfare assistance scheme in Singapore, whereas all the other schemes are short-term, which is precisely what I think Ms Neo was asking about. Short-term schemes that get cut-off when a poor family is still in dire need, may perhaps be described as not “humane”.

How many rejected?

The last time a similar question was asked in Parliament on PA applications, the answer was that about 50 per cent of PA applications were rejected. How many have been told that they do not even need to apply, because they don’t qualify?

The Minister also reportedly said, “This would lead to new ways of helping needy Singaporeans”; which begs the asking ‘what “new ways” were used to help those whose PA applications were rejected?’ What kind of “non-PA” help did they get exactly?

Need to be creative in helping?

“when MPs inform MCYS about needy people who fall outside assistance schemes, the ministry could review the schemes or “it might also require us to be more creative in finding other ways to help our fellow Singaporeans” – Acting MCYS Minister Chan Chun Sing

If you are needy, and need your MP to chance upon you because you fall outside assistance schemes; and then your MP needs to inform the Ministry, and then the Ministry may need to be “more creative in finding other ways to help” – I think you may have a problem if you are poor in Singapore.

Comcare rejections?

The last reported Comcare applications’ rejection rate was 71 per cent. What “creative ways” and help exactly did any of this 29 per cent of rejected needy families get?

With the number of PA households at 3,000, remaining relatively stable since 2007, despite an increasing population, increasing aged population, longer life expectancy, increasing number of people with disabilities, increasing Comcare applications, etc, does it not seem odd that the PA number has remained unchanged?

Do the above make sense to you?

Finally, if a social welfare system needs the Ministry to constantly be creative in finding new ways to help because many fall outside the existing schemes, does it not indicate that there may be something wrong with the existing schemes’ criteria in the first place?



About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), invited to speak more than 200 times in over 30 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of Indonesia and Brunei. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.