$150 per month for severely disabled elderly – extended by only one year?

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By Leong Sze Hian

Media reports in July said that Singapore is in a "golden period" that can stretch out over many years.

There were two other media reports in that same week about the payout period for disabled seniors under The Interim Disability Assistance for the Elderly (Idape) scheme - which pays up to $150 a month - being extended from five to six years, and Singapore having the highest growth rate in the world for the number millionaires. (See the Ministry of Health's website for details of who qualifies for Idape.)

One report by channelnewsasia says:

"The Health Ministry has extended the payout period for Singaporeans with severe disabilities under its Interim Disability Assistance Programme for the Elderly (IDAPE) from five to six years."

As I read the above three reports, which all appeared in the same week, I began to reflect on the connection between them, as I was talking to an elderly friend in his late 60s.

Why are we extending the pay-out under Idape for only one year - for the severely disabled elderly?

A channelnewsasia report quoted Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan as saying:

"I visited the nursing homes and I spoke to some of the family members. They were the ones who told me they were worried about what would happen when the payout period ends. So I took a look and decided to give this extension."

What is a poor disabled elderly person going to do when the Idape payment stops?

IDAPE claimants are those who are unable to perform at least three of the six activities of daily living that have been identified.

These activities include washing, dressing, feeding, going to the toilet, moving from room to room or from a bed to an upright chair or vice versa.

As one recipient's family care-giver said in a media report (Sunday Times, Jul 8), "(I) had been having sleepness nights because he thought a monthly $150 handout he uses to pay for his disabled mother's medical needs would run out in two month's".

Why do we continue to make them worry for the next year too?

As there are only 3,700 who are currently still on Idape, even extending it indefinitely until they die, is only about $6.66 million a year.

Since there were only 450 beneficiaries in the first batch of Idape which started in September 2002, the actual payout of another further one year extension may be less than $810,000, as some may die in the future.

The reason given for the recent GST hike was to help the poor. These amounts are relatively very small, compared to the estimated $1.5 billion in additional revenue from the two per cent GST increase.

Since Idape was to help those who were not eligible for the national severe disability insurance scheme, ElderShield, when it was launched in September, 2002, why is it that it only pays $150, when ElderShield paid $300?

ElderShield will also be increased to $400 later this year.Against the backdrop that Singapore had the highest increase in the world for the number of US$ millionaires, which is now at 66,000, I think the least we can do, is to recognise and give more help to the disabled elderly poor, whose toil and contribution took Singapore into its Golden Period now.

Picture from vnc2005

Visit Sze Hian’s website here.