By Leong Sze Hian
I refer to the ComCare and Social Support Division, Ministry of Social and Family Development’s reply “Help for those no longer on Hope” (Straits Times Forum, Mar 23) to Dr John Hui Keem Peng’s letter “”Give Hope to needy couples – minus family-size criterion” (Straits Times Forum, Mar 19).
They know then doesn’t mean its right now?
It states that “Couples are aware of the benefits and conditions before they join the programme.
Mentoring is also provided as part of the scheme to guide and support the families.
Couples on the scheme who decide to have a third child can withdraw from it and its benefits. The family can tap other sources of support when they are no longer on Hope.
For example, they can receive pre-school and student care subsidies, as well as other forms of social assistance, depending on their needs. They are also eligible for the Baby Bonus scheme.
We welcome suggestions on ways to further improve the Hope scheme.”
Couples who have a third child will stop getting benefits – this means that they will stop getting $2,500 a year to the mother’s CPF account to pay for their HDB mortgage, until it reaches $50,000.
For low-income families who bought a HDB flat on the assumption that they would get the $50,000 CPF grant to pay for their mortgage, it may be very difficult for them to decide to withdraw from the HOPE scheme.
Also, for those who withdraw from the scheme – do they have to refund the CPF grants given to them plus accrued interest when they sell their HDB flat in the future?
As to “The family can tap other sources of support when they are no longer on Hope. For example, they can receive pre-school and student care subsidies” – I understand that the pre-school and education benefits under HOPE are much more than that under ComCare, even if they qualify as these would be subject to eligibility criteria on a year-to-year basis, unlike HOPE benefits which continue from entry into the scheme.
So, it may not be an easy financial decision to withdraw from the scheme.
How many have withdrawn?
How many HOPE scheme receipients have even withdrawn from the scheme to have a third child?
According to a reply in Parliament on 12 November 2012, “There were 2,674 families on HOPE as of end September 2012. The ethnic breakdown, based on the ethnicity of the mothers, is as follows: 45% were Malay, 33% Chinese, 15% Indian and the rest from other ethnic groups.”
I think the reply does not address some of the questions that people have been asking, such as – why we are discouraging procreation, given our very low procreation rate?
How many Singapore citizen babies have been lost through abortions because of the conditions attached to the scheme?
Why do we continue hurting not just physically, but also emotionally, these HOPE scheme families?
How many families are under the HOPE scheme?
Why do we discriminate against low-income, low-education families?
Why do we give generous tax incentives to the rich to procreate, but penalise the low-income under the HOPE scheme?
If we can spend $8.2 billion in procreation tax benefits in a year, why can’t we spend some money to help low-income families under HOPE to procreate?
“Shouldn’t we complement the scheme instead by putting in place programmes that help them build stronger marriages and become better parents?
If they decide they are unable to raise their children, why not provide them with services to facilitate adoption?
After all, there are many childless couples in the long queue to adopt children.”