6 November 2017
Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin
Nominated Member of Parliament
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) what measurements and processes are used to distinguish between people experiencing episodic poverty and those experiencing chronic poverty; (b) what is the average number of months that a Singaporean stays in an episode of poverty before moving out of it; (c) what is the percentage of our population that stays in poverty for more than one year; and (d) how does the Ministry work with other stakeholders to leverage on the strengths of low-income families who cycle in and out of episodic poverty to ensure they do not wind up in chronic poverty.
1. The Government invests heavily in education, healthcare, housing and skills upgrading for Singaporeans, so that all have opportunities to do well in life. These range from broad-based subsidies and incentives that benefit many, to targeted assistance for lower income or vulnerable groups who need additional help.
2. As the needs of the low-income or vulnerable groups are often multi-faceted, concepts like chronic or episodic poverty, which rely on a poverty measure based on one dimension, such as income threshold or housing type, are inadequate. Rather, 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.
3. A sustainable social safety net is built on the values of individual self-reliance, family support and a caring community. Families form the foundation of our society and should be the first line of support. The wider community also plays a part in the outreach and care for the less fortunate. While the Government will do more, we need to draw on the strengths of our stakeholders to enhance the stability and resilience of vulnerable groups.
4. In some instances, these forms of assistance function as a safety net - to keep people from falling further, and to sustain them for the long haul. ComCare Long-Term Assistance is one example of this, where a person who is unable to work due to age or health reasons and does not have any financial means or family support need to be assisted with basic needs for the long term.
5. In other instances, assistance schemes try to help people in difficulty bounce back up - through significant, targeted support for education, employment, skills upgrading and housing, among others. For example, we have introduced upstream programmes such as KidSTART and the Fresh Start Housing Scheme, to support low-income families in their aspirations to provide a good foundation for their children and to own a home again. Our Social Service Offices work with community partners such as Family Service Centres and Voluntary Welfare Organisations to identify the needs of vulnerable groups, as well as their strengths and resources to help themselves, which upholds their dignity and enhances their resilience. The community plays a key role in helping low-income families avoid entrenchment. For example, Mendaki's Family Excellence Circles brings together low-income parents to interact, exchange ideas and share best practices to cope with daily challenges and embrace lifelong learning.