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Singapore

ComCare spending up 56% to S$236 million in 2020 as jobs, livelihoods affected by COVID-19

SINGAPORE: A total of S$236 million in ComCare cash assistance was disbursed to beneficiaries in the 2020 financial year, a 56 per cent increase from the previous year, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) on Wednesday (Oct 13).

With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of unique individuals who received assistance went up by 22 per cent to about 96,000, said MSF.

This was mainly driven by the increase in Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance beneficiaries.

ComCare supports low-income households with their living expenses and assistance is disbursed through schemes such as Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance, Long-Term Assistance, Student Care Fee Assistance and interim assistance.

According to Comcare’s annual report and trends report, an increase was also seen across all assistance schemes except Long-Term Assistance.

MORE HOUSEHOLDS NEEDED SHORT-TO-MEDIUM TERM ASSISTANCE

The number of households which needed Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance increased by about 24 per cent, to about 35,700 beneficiaries in FY2020.

The quantum of ComCare assistance disbursed under SMTA also went up by about 77 per cent, to about S$183 million.

“This reflected the economic impact of COVID-19 and the flexibility exercised by the Social Service Offices during the pandemic to provide ComCare support,” said MSF.

MSF cited an example, saying that it automatically extended the duration of support of existing ComCare beneficiaries whose assistance ended between May and October 2020, by a further six months,

This was to “provide them with a longer runway to stabilise their circumstances”, said the ministry.

Most new ComCare beneficiaries assisted between April and December 2020 received at least six months of help, it added.

According to the trends report, households who lived in one- to two-room HDB flats made up about half of those on Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance.

This trend was consistent across FY2016 to FY2020, said MSF.

About 10,000 children got help with student care fees in FY2020 - an increase of 3 per cent.

This is due to the broadening of income eligibility in July 2020, and schools’ efforts to proactively enrol children who may benefit from after-school care in school-based student care centres.

However, the number of individuals receiving Long-Term Assistance decreased by about 2 per cent, to about 4,100 in FY2020, said MSF.

Individuals aged 65 and above made up about 80 per cent of those on Long-Term Assistance, according to MSF’s trends report.

ComCare Long-Term Assistance supports individuals who are permanently unable to work due to old age, illness or disability, have limited or no means of income, and have little or no family support.

The report also showed that the number of individuals receiving Interim Assistance increased by about 21 per cent, to about 9,400 in FY2020.

Similar to the rise in the number of people who received Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance, this is attributable to the impact of COVID-19, said MSF.

Interim Assistance provides immediate financial assistance to individuals and families who require urgent and temporary financial relief.

PEOPLE IN BIGGER FLATS QUALIFYING FOR ASSISTANCE

ComCare’s trends report also showed more individuals and households living in bigger flats qualifying for assistance.

Between FY2019 and FY2020, the proportion of households on Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance who lived in one- to two-room HDB flats decreased from 52.1 per cent to 49.1 per cent.

But the proportion of households who lived in three- to five-room flats increased from 42.1 per cent to 44.9 per cent during the same period. This reversed the trend from FY2016 to FY2019, said MSF.

The report also showed that from FY2019 to FY2020, the proportion of main applicants on Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance who were not working decreased from 56.4 per cent to 51.6 per cent, while the proportion of main applicants who were working increased from 22.3 per cent to 25 per cent.

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli noted that many families and individuals have been affected by the social and economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is “why we have made it easier for them to access financial support and bounce back stronger”, said Mr Masagos.

“The community also plays an important role in this effort, and we hope that more people and organisations will step up to partner us in helping those in need,” he added.

In addition to the ComCare schemes, MSF said the Government has put in place support measures such as the Solidarity Payment and Solidarity Utilities Credit, as well as targeted support schemes like the Job Support Scheme, Temporary Relief Fund, Self-Employed Persons Income Relief Scheme, COVID-19 Support Grant, COVID-19 Recovery Grant, and COVID-19 Recovery Grant-Temporary.

Source: CNA/nh(gr)

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