Wednesday 27 June 2012

CDAC: More aid for poor Chinese families to move up

CDAC to spend 20% more on social mobility programmes for community
By Phua Mei Pin, The Straits Times, 26 Jun 2012

LOWER-income Chinese families in Singapore will receive more help from the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) as the self-help group places greater emphasis on social mobility.

It has budgeted almost 20 per cent more than last year to help the less well-off make good and move up the socio-economic ladder.

The move is in line with the national effort to build a cohesive society and follows Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call last month for self-help groups to take on the task of helping families climb up the ladder.

In all, the CDAC - which has traditionally focused on providing tuition to poor students and training to low-income workers - plans to spend $4.5 million, out of this year's total budget of $25 million, on social mobility programmes for students, workers and families.

This is 18 per cent more than last year's $3.8 million.

The growing emphasis is inevitable, said Mr Lim Swee Say, 57, outgoing chairman of its board of directors, yesterday when he introduced his successor, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, 53.

'In future years, with a rapidly changing environment, much greater stress, greater diversity, I think we can do a lot more to help many more Singaporeans,' the labour chief, who helmed the CDAC for eight years, told reporters after its annual general meeting.

The big task will now be in the hands of Mr Gan, the CDAC's third chairman in 20 years.

For students, workshops will be introduced to help them become effective lifelong learners.

These learning workshops will impart skills not only for passing exams, but also in time management, analysis and memory.

Said Mr Gan in Mandarin: 'For students who do well, we want to consider how to give them a chance to improve even further.'

The new workshops, to start next year, will reinforce existing schemes, like one in 2009 to achieve excellent results and develop strong character traits and a 2011 tie-up with arts organisations to develop the artistic talents of needy students.

These educational programmes will be under the charge of first-term MP Low Yen Ling, who is taking over from Mr Gan as chairman of the student education and development committee.

On the workers' front, Mr Gan said: 'We want to keep improving their skills, so they can get better salaries and provide a better life for their families.'

Mr Ong Ye Kung, the board member overseeing programmes for workers and deputy labour chief, told The Straits Times the focus will be on vocational training for people with jobs.

Training in fields such as childcare, office administration, and Class 4 and 5 driving will give lower-income workers a chance to improve their employability and earning power, he said.

CDAC has also placed promising families on a scheme for upward social mobility.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary Sam Tan, who heads the programmes for families, said CDAC would match families with programmes to help them realise their aspirations.

'For example, if a family aspires to upgrade from rental housing to owning a home, we can teach them how to build their savings... and how each member can play a part, be it in skills upgrading or doing well in studies.'

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