Sunday 15 January 2012

CDAC aims to help more families move up social ladder

By Sharon See, Channel NewsAsia, 14 Jan 2012

Self-help group Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) has set aside more funds to help more families move up the social ladder. Its budget for this year is bigger by 15 per cent - at about S$25 million, and it aims to help 64,500 beneficiaries.

Last year, it spent more than S$21 million to help 61,700 people.

"A Little From All" - That is one of the ways that the CDAC gets its funding - through monthly contributions of at least 50 cents from working Singaporeans.

"A Little From All" is also the title of a new song written to mark the council's 20th anniversary. It also has a logo to mark the occasion.

CDAC Chairman Lim Swee Say noted that in the last two decades, the self-help group has made good progress, reaching out to more than 60,000 people a year.

He said the CDAC will focus on social mobility programmes - to help families move up the social ladder.

Mr Lim said: "We expect the pace of economic restructuring to be even faster, in response to global competition. From a social angle, the ageing of the population, the widening of the income gap - all these will make social mobility a more pressing issue for the CDAC."

This means moving beyond the CDAC's staple of traditional programmes such as tuition for academically weaker students, to include enrichment classes, camps and workshops.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who is also Chairman of the CDAC's Student Education & Development Committee, said: "One example is arts. We're looking at music and other areas... Some of them will also include language skills, confidence building, so they are not necessarily related to school studies. It's about giving them a sense of confidence that they can achieve."

There will also be programmes for workers to motivate them to pursue a better career path.

However, these new programmes will cost more.

Mr Lim said: "The support needed per student, per family, per worker, relatively speaking, is higher than our so-called traditional programmes in helping them to cope with examinations and so on.

"The amount of effort and resources needed for each student, worker and family will likewise go up. What it means is that we need more financial resources and at the same time, if not more importantly, we need to have more volunteers."

The council is also in talks with polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education to offer enrichment programmes.

Mr Gan also said the council is prepared to draw from its endowment fund for the short term to support Singaporeans who may be hit by a possible economic slowdown.

He said: "CDAC is preparing ourselves too, in the event that the economy slows down significantly and there are more people that need help, we will be able to respond and come up with programmes that help them."

In March 2009, the council spent about S$1 million to help people in areas such as education, job placement and training.

CDAC board member Grace Fu said the council is setting up two new centres in Bedok and Jurong in collaboration with the respective Community Development Councils.

She said: "This is really to try to(find the) right place for our centre, so that we can help and reach out to the people in need... We need the local community to tell us what's really needed, so we will continue to have that outreach at the local level."

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