Financial assistance: How ‘deserving’ the ‘criteria’?

Photo: Narin BI/CC BY 2.0Photo: Narin BI/CC BY 2.0

What is the qualifying criteria for financial assistance and what exactly is the assistance, and for how long? 

I refer to the article “$500 a month on cable TV and cigarettes and this family still wants aid?” (Straits Times, Jun 23).

It states that “Another challenge was a group of families who only wanted tangible aid – financial help, food rations, rental and utility vouchers. Put bluntly, they were saying to us: “Just give us what we want and leave us alone.”

They resisted discussing their problems. A few became angry and abusive when social workers suggested meetings. It was difficult, but we persevered because these families needed help, too.

At P4650, we learnt the complexities these families presented – lessons that caution against painting a simplistic picture of rental flat dwellers with a broad brush.

Social workers are sometimes faulted for asking seemingly intrusive questions and for their obsession with genograms and ecomaps (that, respectively, map a person’s family and friendship networks) and income and expenditure assessments. Asking good questions and using tools appropriately are in fact relevant and important. They are vital to understanding how families make decisions, and the various roles that family members play.”

Every now and then, we see stories in the media about how our financial assistance schemes help needy Singaporeans.

But, arguably, the most obvious question I believe, may not have been asked.

More transparency on how much aid under what circumstances?

What exactly is the ComCare qualifying criteria for assistance – how much assistance is allocated for how long under what circumstances?

Without more disclosure and transparency to help the public understand the context of ‘financial assistance’ stories – stories that give the impression that some may be falling through the cracks or that the Government may not be doing enough may continue.

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.