SINGAPORE: From April, Public Assistance (PA) recipients can look forward to a higher level of assistance that is flexible and customised to their needs.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will enhance the PA Scheme by providing additional assistance, other than a higher direct cash handout.
The change will mainly benefit those with special or one—off needs.
For example, additional assistance will be given to those who need healthcare and hygiene products such as adult diapers and nutritional milk supplements, or those who need one—off purchase or replacement of equipment such as a commode.
The ministry is expecting about one—third of existing PA households to benefit from the additional forms of assistance. There are currently over 3,000 households on public assistance.
In all, the government will set aside S$20 million for the scheme.
Households will be assessed to determine their needs.
Dr Lily Neo, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency, said: "It is a shift from the usual one—size—fits—all kind of policy. It should be rightly so.
"The public assistance allowance is really for very, very basic subsistence living, so in fact if they do have medical conditions, they do need other requirements and these can cost quite a bit.
"So if we could alleviate the pain along with their medical condition, in any way we can, I think it will show the caring part of the government for this group."
The cash assistance for all PA households will also be raised. The increase will range from S$50 per month for a one—person PA household to S$130 per month for a four—person PA household.
79—year—old Anthony Cho lives alone and has been surviving on the S$400 monthly allowance he receives under the PA Scheme since 2006.
The money is used to pay for rent, food and utilities. But from April, he will receive S$450.
Mr Cho said: "I use over S$10 a day, S$300 to $400 a month, so there’s some balance now."
Mr Cho will also be receiving items like a new mattress and a monthly nutritional milk supplement under the revised scheme.
There will be two more levels of assistance. Under the secondary tier, those who need healthcare essentials like adult diapers or milk supplements will be provided with the items every month.
The third tier is a discretionary one—off assistance to purchase or replace items like medical equipment.
Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said: "We will be able to provide some of the basic medical needs, like consumables, which will then lessen the burden on the client, and it will also allow the VWOs and social workers to focus their efforts on taking care of the clients rather than going around to seek the funds for the consumables."
Even with the changes, households under public assistance will continue to receive free medical treatment at polyclinics and government or restructured hospitals. Those with dependent children will also continue to receive additional cash assistance of S$150 per child.
The ministry also said that the revision is part of the regular review of basic cash assistance rates to ensure that they are adequate to meet the needs of PA households.
Mr Chan said: "We review that very regularly to make sure that we are able to keep up with inflation, the cost of living and the basket of goods that they are having.
"We want to make sure that there is a bit of buffer between what they need and what we give them, so over the last two, three years, we know that the inflation has gone up a bit and we must continue to make sure that we have that buffer for them, which is why we have revised the rate."
With higher life expectancy and ageing population, the Ministry of Social and Family Development believes the number of public assistance cases will continue to rise in future.
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