Singapore

ComCare disburses $236m of financial aid to a record 96,040 people

Economic fallout from Covid-19 pandemic sees sharp rise of those on Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance

The number of individuals receiving financial aid from ComCare, a key social safety net for the low-income in Singapore, was the highest in its last financial year since it was set up in 2005.

A total of 96,040 beneficiaries were on the various Community Care Endowment Fund (ComCare Fund) schemes in its last financial year, which ended in March. This is a 22 per cent increase from the 78,580 people in the year before.

The second-highest number was in the financial year that ended in March 2015, when there were 91,093 beneficiaries.

ComCare disbursed $236 million in financial aid in its last financial year, a 56 per cent jump from the $151 million in the year before and the largest sum given out since its inception.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) released the ComCare annual and trends report yesterday.

The increase in numbers was largely due to the significant rise of those on Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance (SMTA), which provides temporary financial aid and other forms of help to tide recipients through tough times. A total of 80,449 individuals were on the SMTA in the last financial year, a 25 per cent rise from the year before.

This is due to the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic and the flexibility exercised by Social Service Offices to provide ComCare aid to those in need, said MSF.

SUPPORT EXTENDED

MSF automatically extended the duration of support of ComCare beneficiaries whose assistance ended between May and October last year by six months to help them through the pandemic.

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said: "Many families and individuals have been affected by the social and economic repercussions of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which is why we have made it easier for them to access financial support and bounce back stronger."

An MSF spokesman told The Straits Times the monthly mean sum given to SMTA recipients was around $600 per household last year. The majority are either single-person or two-person households. This cash assistance is provided in addition to aid for rental, utilities and other forms of government assistance and subsidies the family could be receiving, the spokesman said.

About two in three households on the SMTA scheme had no one in the family who was employed in the last financial year. Such families formed the largest group of households on the scheme, according to the ComCare report.

The number of beneficiaries of other ComCare schemes, including Interim Assistance and Student Care Fee Assistance, also went up in the last financial year. The only scheme to buck the trend is Long-Term Assistance, also known as Public Assistance, which helps the destitute, as its number of beneficiaries dipped by 3 per cent.

Dr Terence Yow, divisional director of care and integration at AMKFSC Community Services, said its social workers are seeing more people seeking financial help after losing their jobs or taking significant pay cuts amid the pandemic.

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