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S$131mil disbursed to beneficiaries under ComCare in FY2017; amount disbursed slightly lower than in previous FYs

Despite registering an increase in the number of households receiving SMTA (Short- and Medium-Term Assistance) under the Community Care Endowment Fund (ComCare) from financial years (FY) 2013 to 2015, a decrease in the number of households receiving such assistance was subsequently recorded in FY 2016 and 2017.

Following the release of the ComCare annual report for FY2017 -- which covers figures from April 2017 to March this year -- by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), it was noted that about 28,000 households received SMTA in FY2017, which is a 1.5 per cent decrease from 28,400 households in FY2016.

MSF cited the increase of "the monthly household income cap for families seeking SMTA from $1,700 to $1,900" since Jul 2014, as well as raising the cap on income per household member from $550 to $650 as a reason for the decrease in the number of disbursements in FY2017.

However, the figure recorded in FY2017 is a 15 per cent increase from about 24,300 in FY2013.

In FY2017, the proportion of households on SMTA headed by middle-aged persons ranging from 55 to 64 increased to 24 per cent, compared to 19 per cent in FY2013.

This increase, according to MSF's report, reflects shrinking family sizes and "an ageing population." 

It was also noted that around 70 per cent of the 39,300 households received SMTA under ComCare.

In its press release, MSF stated that it had "started rolling out a network of Social Service Offices (SSOs) to provide more accessible and coordinated social assistance to Singaporeans in need" in 2013, and that "by 2015, we had set up the full network of 24 SSOs across the island."

"The number of households assisted on ComCare SMTA stabilised in FY2016 and FY2017 likely due to the completion of the SSO network in 2015," added MSF. 

MSF added that "The number of individuals assisted on the Interim Assistance scheme also decreased, which may be due to SSOs streamlining processes to expedite the approvals of ComCare cases, hence reducing the need to administer Interim Assistance."

"Immediate financial assistance" from "grassroots organisations" through other sources instead of ComCare, as well as "informal support from friends and relatives" were also cited as reasons that have led to the decrease in disbursements under ComCare in FY2017.

The Ministry emphasised that more of the elderly "were also assisted through LTA [Long-Term Assistance], which provides a package of support for individuals who are unable to work due to old age, illness or disability, and have little or no family support."

"Beneficiaries receive monthly cash assistance, free medical treatment in polyclinics and government/restructured hospitals, additional assistance for specialised needs, and access to government-funded social services such as Senior Activity Centres and befriending services," added MSF.

Around 4,400 households received LTA in FY2017, which marked a 24 per cent increase from about 3,600 households in FY2013.

A majority of 79 per cent of households on LTA in FY2017 were headed by seniors aged 65 and above.