1. The Real Singapore Feb 20, 2014
  2. I refer to the article “$ The Budget and me: Aid office near home a boon to widower” (Straits Times, Feb 20).

Widower with 3 children

It states that “Since his wife died of cancer in February last year, Mr Ang K.T, 59, has been the sole pillar of support for his three schoolgoing children.

The widower has his hands full caring for his 20-year-old daughter who is intellectually disabled and attends a Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore facility.

After knocking off as a part-time painter in the afternoon, Mr Ang rushes home to cook and do housework before tending to his children after school.

He has a son, 14, in secondary school and another daughter, 19, at the Institute of Technical Education.

As he needs time to manage the household, he is able to hold down only a part-time job, paying $850 a month.”

Take-home pay only $740?

His take-home pay after his employee CPF contribution is $740.

As to “Barely able to make ends meet, he has been getting financial help from the South West Community Development Council for the past few years.

Mr Ang gets $350 monthly under the ComCare Work Support scheme”

Including ComCar assistance – only $1,090?

– does this mean that his total income, including the $350 from ComCare is only $1,090?

Isn’t this amount kind of tight for his family of 4, with 3 children in secondary school, ITE and special school for the disabled?

ComCare assistance got increase or not?

Did he get any increase in the $350 Comcare support in the last few years, or has it remained the same?

How much utilities and S & CC paid for him?

In respect of “A portion of his other expenses, such as utility bills and service and conservancy charges (S & CC), is also being paid for”

– how much exactly is this “a portion of his other expenses”? If Mr Ang is living in a 3-room HDB flat, the S & CC rebates for 2013 was only for 2 months, not to mention that 7 town councils increased S & CC in late 2012.

Does he get additional S & CC rebates in view of his circumstances?

According to the MOF web site – “Those living in 3- to 4-room HDB flats can offset up to 4 months of utilities bills on average” – does he get additional utilities rebates in view of his circumstances?

Can’t the “applications” process be made easier? 

With regard to “Yet, getting the extra money has not been easy. Whenever applications need to be made, he has to take leave from work and take a bus there. “It takes half an hour but I have to take the day off, and if I don’t work for that day, I don’t get paid,” said Mr Ang in a mix of Mandarin and Hokkien.

So when a Social Service Office (SSO), administering the national ComCare scheme, opened a few blocks from his home last month, a load was taken off his shoulders. “It’s just a two-minute walk away so I don’t have to take leave and I can just walk up if I forget to bring certain documents.”

– how often does he need to go to the “office” to make applications? Given his situation, is it about maybe every 6 months to review the assistance given to him?

Why is it compulsory for him to go to the office to make applications? Can’t it be done online or by post? Are such “ComCare offices” only open during office hours?

How much more will 20 SSOs cost?

In respect of “The SSOs were one of the measures announced in last year’s Budget with the aim of strengthening the social safety net for the vulnerable.

The target is to set up 20 SSOs in HDB towns islandwide so that together with the current 43 Family Service Centres islandwide, the network formed will put help within 2km of where 95 per cent of needy residents live or work”

– how much more will this setting up of 20 SSOs cost?

Evaluate assistance delivery costs vs actual assistance?

Shouldn’t we evaluate the merits of spending more for SSOs against giving more assistance to people like Mr Ang?

Savings depleted by deceased’s wife’s medical costs?

As to “Mr Ang hopes this year’s Budget will give him some extra pocket money for a rainy day. “My biggest worry is what will happen to my special needs daughter when I am not around,” he frets. “I have depleted my savings over my wife’s chemotherapy sessions”

– why did Mr Ang have to deplete his savings to pay for his wife’s chemotherapy sessions? Whatever happened to our MediShield, Medisave, Medifund assistance, etc?

Dropped to 150th Press Freedom ranking? 

If this is the best kind of example that we can come up with, to promulgate the propaganda that we are helping Singaporeans in a big way – is it any wonder that our Press Freedom ranking has just dropped another notch to 150th?

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.