ComCare: Less households helped – criteria relaxed, economic downturn, rising unemployment?

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Why did fewer households gain help from ComCare under the condition of a more relaxed income criteria?

I refer to the article “Parliament Shorts: 39,200 needy households on ComCare” (Straits Times, Oct 3).

It states that “About 39,200 needy households received financial aid from the Community Care (ComCare) Endowment Fund in the last financial year ending in March, a dip of about 300 from the year before. Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Faishal Ibrahim gave this update yesterday in reply to Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC).

Mr Seah said he was surprised by the decrease, since some income criteria were relaxed.

Dr Faishal said that with the setting up of social service offices – which administer ComCare aid – from 2013 to 2015, help was brought closer to people in need, and the number of ComCare cases has since stabilised.”

I agree with MP Seah Kian Peng’s remarks “he was surprised by the decrease, since some income criteria were relaxed”.

It seems rather strange that in the economic downturn and rising unemployment over the last year or so – coupled with “some income criteria were relaxed”, as well as the Minister’s recent remarks “The Government is also stepping in earlier to help workers and families who are showing signs of financial struggle yet would not usually qualify for ComCare aid.

Last year, nearly half of approved applications for short- to medium-term aid were granted to such beneficiaries, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development. Some were offered a higher cash quantum or had their period of aid extended if they still could not find jobs.

Mr Tan said such flexibility is especially important today when many Singaporeans are finding their livelihoods affected by disruption due to technology. “I think we will continue to see this affecting us for years to come. Some jobs will disappear from the market” (“Interview with Tan Chuan-Jin: Early action to break cycle of poverty in Singapore“, Straits Times, Jul 17) – in addition to “with the setting up of social service offices – which administer ComCare aid – from 2013 to 2015, help was brought closer to people in need” – that the number of needy households helped has decreased.

I suppose we shall have to wait for this year’s ComCare Annual Report to try to figure out what’s going on?

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the 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), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.