Tuesday, 26 September 2023

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Strange replies in Parliamentary? (Part 5): 20% increased income beyond assistance criteria?

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “20% of families on ComCare assistance saw incomes rise beyond eligibility criteria” (Channel NewsAsia, Nov 12).

3 in 4 found jobs?

It states that “About three in four unemployed Singaporeans under ComCare’s Short Term Assistance from 2008 to 2012 were placed in jobs either during their term of assistance or upon graduating from the scheme.”

As I understand that the term of assistance for short-term assistance can be up to 2 years, isn’t it rather obvious that 3 in 4 have to get jobs, because the amount of assistance is temporary and insufficient for a family to survive by any measure of a decent minimum standard of living.

Also, as I understand that as the term of assistance is temporary, one has to get a job.

What is perhaps alarming may be that 1 in 4 could not be placed in any job at all, despite consistent rhetoric that there are plenty of jobs for which the problem may be that Singaporeans are choosy and don’t want to work.

If this is indeed the situation, how do we explain the now revealed statistics that 1 in 4 could not be placed in a job, even though as I understand it financial assistance is contingent upon the person making a serious effort to find a job either through the job placement service or by themselves?

20% increased income beyond assistance criteria?

As to “During the same period, about 20 per cent of families on ComCare assistance, who received case management support, saw their incomes rising beyond the eligibility criteria for assistance”

– does it mean that only those “who received case management” – “saw their incomes rising beyond the eligibility criteria for assistance”?

What percentage of families received case management support – all?

Does it not appear to be rather pathetic that only 20 per cent were able to increase their incomes beyond the Comcare criteria of $1,700 household income or $550 per capita?

Something must be very wrong when 80 per cent can’t even eventually earn above these rather low income thresholds?

So, don’t you find it strange that the consistent rhetoric is that jobs are aplenty, and all kinds of schemes like the progressive wage concept, productivity enhancement, skills upgrading, wage income supplement (WIS) scheme , etc, are supposed to help lower-wage workers earn more?

More offices, information systems, etc?

“Mr Chan added that the Ministry is setting up a network of Social Service Offices to make assistance more accessible and to improve integration of services on the ground.

A national case management and information system will also be set up to facilitate better sharing of information among service providers.

The data will enable service providers and government agencies to better understand current trends and the families that are being helped, as well as to forecast and address emerging needs faced by the needy”

Real help got increase or not?

– we seem to be focusing more on the infrastructure, manpower, processes, networks, rather than increasing the actual amount of assistance to poor families in real terms after adjusting for inflation.

As long as our social and welfare public spending as a percentage of GDP or absolute dollars per capita continues to be one of the lowest in the world for developed and developing countries, no amount of enhancement or sophistication in our assistance channels can lessen the suffering of poorer Singaporeans.

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