SINGAPORE: Seniors or their caregivers will be able to start applying for a new grant to offset costs of long-term care from Oct 1 this year, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Wednesday (Sep 25).
The S$200 Home Caregiving Grant (HCG) replaces the existing S$120 Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW) Grant.
Those who are already receiving the FDW Grant will be automatically enrolled onto the HCG, and need not apply, MOH said in its press release.
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The new grant, a monthly cash payout, will be paid to eligible care recipients, who can also choose to nominate a caregiver to receive it, MOH said.
Beneficiaries will have more flexibility in using it to defray caregiving expenses such as hiring an FDW, home and community-based services, and transportation to medical appointments, MOH added.
Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong, who toured St Luke’s Eldercare (Ayer Rajah) on Wednesday, told media that the main advantage of the cash payout is that it can be used in a flexible way.
When asked about the possibility of the grant being abused, Mr Tong said: "We have to trust that caregivers will not abuse it. Obviously, when we find out that it has been abused, and it's been taken and the care recipient doesn't benefit, we'll have to find ways to take action and correct it."
MOH has surveyed the landscape enough to build in some safeguards, he added.
To be eligible for the HCG, MOH said the care recipient must meet the following criteria:
- Always require some assistance with at least three activities of daily living (includes eating, dressing, transferring, toileting and moving around)
- Be means-tested to have per capita household monthly income that is S$2,800 or less, or belong to a household with no income and living in a residence with an annual value that is S$13,000 or less
- Be a Singapore Citizen, or a Singapore Permanent Resident with a parent, child or spouse who is a Singaporean
- Not living in a residential long-term care institution
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PRE-ENROLMENT FOR RESPITE CARE
Caregivers can also expect to get respite care help faster through a pilot pre-enrolment system by the Agency of Integrated Care (AIC) called Go Respite.
The service allows caregivers to take a temporary break while a nursing home or senior care centre takes care of their loved ones, according to the AIC website. The average activation time for those on the pilot is about a week for centres and two weeks for nursing homes, compared to up to four weeks for those not on the pilot, MOH said.
Since the start of the pilot in April this year, AIC has received close to 150 pre-enrolment applications, and to date, more than 10 per cent of the applicants have activated respite care services under this pilot, MOH added.
"The pilot that we've done has shown that the sign-up is good. And the ability to pre-enrol gives peace of mind, speed and importantly, familiarity between the centre and senior and vice versa," Mr Tong said.
Caregivers registered under Go Respite will be required to complete some administrative processes in advance to reduce activation time.
This includes application processes related to the assessment of eligibility for subsidies, selection of suitable service providers, and allowing service providers to briefly assess the care recipient’s medical conditions. Pre-enrolment is valid for two years once completed.
As of September this year, there are 20 senior care centres and 26 nursing homes participating in the Go Respite pilot, including St Luke’s Eldercare (Ayer Rajah), Vanguard Senior Care and Econ Nursing Home (Recreation Road).
The initiatives are part of the Caregiver Support Action Plan announced by MOH in February 2019. The Action Plan strengthens support for caregivers in areas such as caregiver respite care, financial support and care navigation.
MOH also said that to enable caregivers and seniors to better access information and obtain referrals to services and grants, it will expand AIC Link counters beyond the current eight locations at acute and community hospitals and AIC’s office at Maxwell Road, to selected Silver Generation Office (SGO) Satellite Offices within the community.
Three more AIC Links at Choa Chu Kang, Nee Soon and Pasir Ris will be ready by the end of the year, MOH added.