Friday 27 January 2012

Government to beef up Community Care Endowment Fund (ComCare)

Channel NewsAsia, 26 Jan 2012

Although the impending economic slowdown may not be as severe as the previous recession in 2008, the government is prepared to set aside the same amount of ComCare funds, if needed.

Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Madam Halimah Yacob, said this on the sidelines of a visit to Northeast Community Development Council (CDC) on Thursday.

Community Development Councils are also beefing up their services on the ground as more residents apply for social assistance.

A team of case managers attend to needy residents twice a week at a satellite office in central Tampines.

It is part of the North East CDC's Proactive Ground Engagement programme to further strengthen its social services within the community.

The next step is to have a centre that serves as a permanent work space for staff, so that residents can access services more easily.

Mayor of North East District, Teo Ser Luck, said: "Currently, CDC staff are on a flexi work arrangement. They are (situated) in the headquarters, which is in Tampines on hot-desking basis, so they don't actually have a fixed place.

"They work at the CC, they work from home. I think with a centre, you can have a full service, and they can still be hot-desking there but also getting closer to the community itself."

With economic growth expected to slow down this year, Mr Teo also wants to increase the number of job placement centres in the district in the event that companies scale down their operations.

Currently, the North East CDC has 18 satellite offices, which operate within community centres, and three job placement centres - in Pasir Ris, Paya Lebar and Tampines.

North East CDC saw close to a 50 per cent increase in the number of applications for financial assistance for the fourth quarter of last year compared to the previous quarter.

The October to December 2011 quarter saw 1,464 applications, compared to the July to September quarter, when there were 992 applications.

Madam Halimah said needy residents need not worry as the government is prepared to set aside additional ComCare funding and flexibility during a downturn.

She said: "Right now, the ComCare scheme is only for 6 months. CDCs in the downturn have the flexibility to extend it to 12 months, for instance, or even longer, looking at how the economic situation develops."

Madam Halimah noted that ComCare schemes are not just for financial assistance but for providing support to residents affected to get back on their feet, be it job placement or skills training.

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