Sunday 12 February 2012

Guide to dispel myths on social assistance from Community Development Council

By Esther Ng, TODAY, 9 Feb 2012

Two in 10 low-income residents in South West district do not know where to apply for financial and other types of social assistance.

And many think that it is difficult to get help, or that if they are incapacitated and are unable to travel to the Community Development Council (CDC) offices, they will not be able to get aid from the CDCs.

These are some of the myths associated with getting help from CDCs, which South West district mayor Amy Khor is hoping to dispel with the launch of a 14-page illustrated guide on the types of aid available.

While the South West district's proportion of low-income households was the same as the national average, it sees a "significant increase" for social assistance during downturns because of its sizeable working-class population, Dr Khor explained.

It saw a 39 per cent increase in the number of social assistance applications in the last quarter of last year compared to the same period in 2010, which Dr Khor attributed to a slowdown in "some sectors in the economy".

"In the last two quarters, there was also an increase in the number of walk-ins for social assistance.

So, there are people who know where to get social assistance from, but there remains a group of people who don't know and we want to make sure that they do not fall through the cracks," she said, adding that 90 per cent of applicants received help within two to four weeks.

One resident who gave her name as Lachimee told Today that she was illiterate and did not understand the pictures in the guide. But the septuagenarian said she might pass the guide to her daughter.

About 200,000 guides in four official languages will be made available to South West's 231,000 residents at community centres, family service centres and the CDC, and through the efforts of 1,000 volunteers.

Last year, the CDC started a S$1 million Flexibility Fund for people who do not qualify for the national ComCare scheme. As of last month, about S$355,000 has been disbursed.

As for the upcoming Budget, Dr Khor anticipates assistance for the lower-middle income group and the elderly.

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