Local volunteer group, Happy People Helping People Foundation (HPHPF) has created a petition - “Waive ‘Pay-as you-use’ charges for seniors staying in rented flats. Light is a necessity” which is to be presented to the Ministry of Social and Family Development to ask for the ministry to consider the waiver of utility bills for senior citizens living in rental flats.
The HPHPF posted on Facebook about the petition on 23 April 2017.
In their petition, HPHPF wrote about a survey they did to find out more about the problems senior citizens living in rented HDB flats are facing. Through the survey, HPHPF found out that many of them are having difficulty paying their bills.
Many among them are using the Pay-as-you-use (PAYU) system in their homes because they are not able to fulfill their monthly commitment of paying bills.
For those who are unaware, for those who are often behind payment of utility bills, the utility company will install a unit that will monitor the usage of the electricity and will cut the power once the pre-paid credit is used up.
Sometimes people either donate to help them clear their bills, or their MPs assist to write off the amount.
HPHPF wrote, "There are also many that owes Singapore Powers a great sum for not paying their bills for months. While there are many who seeks help through SSO & MP, results often do not come immediately and many end up living in the darkness of their small flat. This can be especially dangerous for elderlies because of their failing eyesight."
"Many of these elderlies are either living alone or with another person who is also an elderly," HPHPF said.
HPHPF hopes that the government considers waiving electricity charges for senior citizens, 'especially those who are staying in rented flats because many of them are no longer working and most of them are earning very little by selling tissue paper, selling recycled cans and cardboard boxes'. Growing old without support and care from children can be very difficult for these seniors, the not-for-profit foundation added.
Below is a photo showing the flat of one of the box collectors. HPHPF notes that most of the box collectors are hoarders and their houses look like the one shown.
HPHPF wrote in its petition, “It is not uncommon for seniors staying alone to meet with accidents in the house and passed away without anyone knowing until a few days later when the body starts to rot and smell.
Mr Gopal, a 68-year-old cardboard collector from Toa Payoh interviewed by HPHPF, told them that when senior citizens don't have access to light, they might refrain from going to the toilet, and if they still do and happen to knock over things causing them to fall as a result, no one would know and they could possibly die alone without anyone knowing.
HPHPF wrote, "With electricity, we can cut down the risk of such accidents. It may be none of your business now. But one day we will be one of them” urging members of public who support the change of policy to sign on the petition.
To sign the petition, visit this page.