1. The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) provided $131 million in ComCare cash assistance to about 79,500 beneficiaries in FY2017. The total number of households assisted by ComCare has generally increased across the different schemes over the past five years.
Multiple layers of assistance
2. The Government has strengthened its social safety net over the last decade by investing heavily in education, healthcare, housing, employment and retirement adequacy for Singaporeans. There are broad-based schemes and subsidies that benefit many, while a network of government and community agencies provides targeted assistance for low-income and vulnerable groups who need additional help. Within these multiple layers of assistance, ComCare plays the role of supporting low-income households with their living expenses. ComCare assistance is disbursed mainly through the Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance (SMTA), Long-Term Assistance (LTA), and Student Care Fee Assistance (SCFA) schemes.
3. The number of households assisted under the ComCare LTA and SMTA increased between FY2013 and FY2015, as outreach was stepped up with the rolling out of Social Service Offices (SSOs) to provide more accessible and coordinated social assistance to Singaporeans in need. With the network of 24 SSOs fully set up by 2015, the number of households assisted on ComCare SMTA has since stabilised, registering a slight dip in FY2016 and FY2017.
Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance help families get back on their feet
4. About 70 per cent of the 39,300 households on ComCare received SMTA, which provides temporary assistance to help families tide over difficult times and regain stability. About 28,000 households received SMTA in FY2017, a 15 per cent increase from about 24,300 in FY2013, and a 1.5 per cent decrease from 28,400 in FY2016. The proportion of households on SMTA headed by persons aged 55 to 64 increased from 19 per cent in FY2013 to 24 per cent in FY2017. The increase in proportion of households with older persons or retirees corresponds to demographic trends such as decreasing family sizes and an ageing population.
Long-Term Assistance and Student Care Fee Assistance supporting more elderly and children from low-income families
5. More elderly were also assisted through LTA, 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. About 4,400 households received LTA in FY2017, a 24 per cent increase from about 3,600 in FY2013. The majority of households on LTA in FY2017, about 79 per cent, were headed by seniors aged 65 and above
6. With the expansion of school-based student care centres in recent years, as well as the expansion in the income criteria for SCFA to support more low-income families with their student care fees, more households were assisted under SCFA, increasing by 40 per cent from 6,000 in FY2013 to 8,400 in FY2017.
7. Commenting on the ComCare Trends report which is released in tandem with the Annual Report, Minister for Social and Family Development Mr Desmond Lee said, "Helping and uplifting our fellow Singaporeans in need is an ongoing and collective effort. ComCare continues to be a key social safety net with ComCare assistance increasing over the years. For families with more complex needs, we are partnering closely with government and community agencies to better coordinate and integrate our delivery of social services. When the Government, the community and families come together to care for the disadvantaged and enable them to rise above their circumstances, we build a stronger and more caring society."
Annex A: ComCare Annual Report FY2017
Annex B: ComCare Trends Report FY2013-2017
Supplementary Information on Comcare Trends Report FY2013-2017 and Comcare Annual Report FY2017
1. What is the general trend of households receiving ComCare assistance from FY2013-FY2017?
There was an overall increase in the number of households assisted on all schemes from FY2013 to FY2017, with the number of households on Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance (SMTA) stabilising in FY2016 and FY2017. There was also more elderly assisted on Long-Term Assistance (LTA) and school-going children assisted on Student Care Fee Assistance (SCFA).
2. Although numbers had increased since FY2013, what are the reasons for the decrease in the number of households assisted on SMTA in FY2016 and FY2017?
The increase in the number of households assisted on SMTA from FY2013 to FY2015 could be due to several reasons. Since July 2014, we have increased the monthly household income cap for families seeking SMTA from $1,700 to $1,900, and the cap on income per household member was raised from $550 to $650. In 2013, MSF started rolling out a network of Social Service Offices (SSOs) to provide more accessible and coordinated social assistance to Singaporeans in need. 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.
3. What are the reasons for the increase in the number of households assisted on SCFA in the past five years?
The increase in the number of households with children receiving SCFA from around 6,000 in FY2013 to 8,400 in FY2017 could be attributed to the expansion of places in school-based student care centres, as well as the revision in the income criteria for SCFA to support more low-income families.
In July 2012, the monthly household income (HHI) criterion was expanded from $2,500 to $3,500 and a per capita income (PCI) criterion of up to $875 was introduced so that larger families can benefit from the scheme. In January 2016, the monthly HHI and PCI criteria were further expanded to $4,000 and $1,000 respectively.
4. ComCare helped around 79,000 individuals in FY2017. What assistance is available for other vulnerable groups?
The Government is prepared to extend help to those in need. We have, in recent years, done more to expand and strengthen our social safety nets.
As the needs of the low-income or vulnerable groups are often multi-faceted, we have in place multiple layers of government assistance and a network of government and community agencies that provide targeted and customised assistance for individuals or households in need, including the following:
- Employment: Progressive Wage Model, Enhanced Workfare Income Supplement Scheme, Workfare Training Support (WTS) Scheme
- Retirement Adequacy: CPF LIFE, Silver Support Scheme
- Healthcare: MediShield Life, CHAS, Pioneer Generation Package, Community Network for Seniors
- Housing: Additional CPF Housing Grant, Fresh Start Housing Scheme
- Social safety nets for the most needy: ComCare, MediFund
We have also strengthened upstream intervention for vulnerable families and children to set a good foundation. For example, KidSTART provides holistic support to children from low-income families to enable them to have a good start in life, and the Fresh Start Housing Scheme supports low-income families in owning a home again.
We will continue to monitor the trend of households needing help, and work closely with other government agencies and our community partners to provide support and assistance to individuals and families in need.
5. What are the reasons for the decrease in the number of individuals assisted on ComCare in FY2015, FY2016 and FY2017?
With the completion of the roll-out of SSOs in FY2015, the number of individuals and households requiring SMTA stabilised, while those requiring LTA continued to increase.
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. Grassroots organisations could be tapping on other funds instead of ComCare to provide immediate financial assistance; and individuals may have turned to informal support from friends and relatives instead of applying for interim assistance.
6. The number and proportion of SMTA main applicants aged 55 and above have been increasing over the last 5 years. What are some of the reasons for this?
The proportion of households headed by persons aged 55 to 64 has increased from 19.1 per cent in FY2013 to 23.8 per cent in FY2017.
In line with the increase in SMTA main applicants aged 55 to 64, the proportion of those who were not working increased from 50.0 per cent in FY2013 to 54.6 per cent in FY2017, mostly because they were medically unfit or retired. In particular, those who were medically unfit increased from 18.7 per cent to 22.5 per cent and those who were retired increased from 11.2 per cent to 12.9 per cent.
The Government will continue to provide assistance as long as necessary, and ensure holistic support by linking them up with relevant help agencies, such as Family Service Centres to provide social support, Medical Social Workers for assistance with medical expenses and Workforce Singapore to provide employment assistance for those who are able to work.
7. With an ageing population, is there an increase in the number of elderly assisted by the Government?
Yes. 3,825 elderly main applicants (aged 60 years & above) were assisted on LTA in FY2017, an increase from 3,111 in FY2013. 6,625 elderly main applicants (aged 60 years & above) were assisted on SMTA in FY2017, also an increase from 5,086 in FY2013.
There are various government schemes that support our low-income elderly with different needs. These include:
- Silver Support Scheme: provides additional support in retirement to Singaporeans who had low incomes through life and who have little or no family support in old age
- Pioneer Generation Package: provides healthcare benefits for all Pioneers, for life
- Senior Mobility and Enabling Fund: provides subsidies for assistive devices, transport and home healthcare items for seniors to age in place within the community
- MediShield Life Premium Support: provides subsidies for MediShield Life premiums
- Community Network for Seniors: involves government agencies and community partners teaming up to reach out to seniors, especially those who are low-income or living alone, to help them stay active, socially engaged, and connected to support and health services where necessary
- Government-funded social services that the elderly can benefit from, such as Senior Activity Centres and Befriending Programmes.