MSF to review assistance for single-mother after report of attempted suicide for CPF monies surfaced

Launch of Yishun SSO in July 2015 (Photo from Lee Bee Wah's Facebook page)

TOC reported earlier this week that a Singaporean woman, Ms Soo (not her real name), attempted suicide out of desperation of her dire family’s financial situation. She thought it would be the quickest way to get her CPF monies out for her family.

Ms Soo, who was publicly named by the Central Provident Fund Board just yesterday, has been out of job since 2016 due to her illness. She is suffering from the autoimmune disease lupus which there is no cure. She revealed that she has sought help from her Member of Parliament, who happens to be Education Minister Ong Ye Kung. She wanted his help to release funds from her CPF account which amounted to about $100k.

“I understand that it is not CPF Board’s policy to release funds from Special Accounts but I hope that this will be permitted as an exception under special circumstances. I may not be able to survive until 55 years old to withdraw my CPF funds. I have depleted my savings after having no income for 3 years,” she said.

Unfortunately, her request was rejected by CPF Board. According to CPF Board’s website, one can withdraw “some of your CPF savings on medical grounds”, provided that the person is certified by a doctor to be incapacitated, severely impaired or terminally ill.

She has also sought help from the Social Service Office (SSO) at Yishun for financial assistance but was similarly rejected. “Reason being we still have savings in our bank account. I have clarified that the money in my bank account (around $4,000) are borrowed money and also my daughter’s bursary monies. As for my dad, he had around $5,000 at the point of application,” she revealed.

According to government website, Social Service Offices (SSO) are set up by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to bring social assistance closer to needy residents. They are supposed to make “ComCare assistance and other forms of assistance such as job matching and family services more accessible to those who need it”. MSF is currently run by Desmond Lee, son of former Cabinet Minister Lee Yock Suan.

To make matters worse, MediSave only allows a very small claimable amount for her medical treatment. Her savings have been exhausted and she can’t hold down a job due to her medical condition. Her body is constantly being attacked by her own white blood cells. She has been borrowing cash from family and friends to survive.

Out of desperation, she attempted suicide a few months ago but was resuscitated at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. She thought that by ending her life, her family whom she used to support when she was working could get her CPF monies and insurance payouts.

Ms Soo further revealed that she is even willing to let go of her Singapore citizenship if that is what it takes to retrieve her funds from CPF. “Either that or I will have to commit suicide again so that my family can get my funds under such circumstances.”

Change of heart from MSF

The Straits Times (ST) published an article reporting her case today (‘How sick woman can access funds: CPF Board‘, 20 Dec):

CPF Board essentially reiterated its policy that Ms Soo can appeal to withdraw her CPF on medical grounds provided her doctor is able to certify that she meets the medical criteria.

ST also reported that SSO had rejected her application for financial assistance in August as she had sufficient savings in her bank account, but corrected part of the story in their online version of the article:

ST posted the following correction notice:

In any case, ST reported that Ms Soo re-applied for financial assistance with the SSO on Wednesday (18 Dec). Noting her request was being reviewed, the CPF Board said, “The SSO will ensure she has the means to cope with daily expenses and has also offered to link her up with a Family Service Centre for emotional support.”

ST further reported that grassroots volunteers have offered support to Ms Soo.

TOC is also reaching out to readers who may be willing to give her a job. Ms Soo has had years of experience working as a legal secretary and is looking for a job. She does not mind changing to another industry and taking a pay cut, with the employer’s understanding of her medical condition. If interested, please contact [email protected] for her contact.

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