8 May 2017
Dr Lim Wee Kiak
MP for Sembawang GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) what is the reason for the increasing number of families receiving ComCare help particularly among senior citizens when mean wages and household income have been increasing; (b) whether this trend indicates widening income gaps; and c) what measures can be taken to address this trend.
Over the last few years, MSF has enhanced the coverage and accessibility of ComCare assistance to help households in need. We have set up the network of 24 Social Service Offices (SSOs) island-wide. We have also revised the income criteria of our help schemes. With these enhancements, more low-income families have benefited from ComCare assistance.
At the same time, the demographic profile in Singapore has been changing, with trends such as smaller families, rising number of single-person households and ageing population observed. These factors affect the ability of some families to cope, and they may require temporary financial assistance to address their needs.
The increasing number of households on ComCare assistance does not necessarily indicate a widening income gap. Over the last five years, the Gini Coefficient remained relatively stable, at 0.473 in 2011 and 0.458 in 2016. The Government has also provided additional transfers such as Silver Support and Medishield Life premium subsidies to help lower-income Singaporeans. This is reflected in the lower Gini Coefficient of 0.402 in 2016 after Government taxes and transfers.
Our SSOs work closely with FSCs, other government agencies and community partners to provide holistic support. For example, our SSOs partner Workforce Singapore (WSG) and the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) to provide the client with employment assistance to improve his or her employability and secure stable employment. Seniors in need can also benefit from government-funded social services such as Senior Activity Centres, befriending and counselling services. The Silver Support Scheme under the Manpower Ministry provides an income supplement to seniors who had low incomes through life and who now have little or no family support.
Beyond ComCare, we are also expanding upstream intervention to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable families and their children to set a good foundation. This includes supporting vulnerable children in their early years, encouraging work and helping workers level up their skills. We also recognise the importance of financial planning for the low-income, and will continue to review efforts for this group.