Saturday 19 March 2016

Elderly eligible for Silver Support Scheme to get cash payments automatically

Eligible seniors will receive their quarterly cash payouts automatically, to help them cope with living expenses
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 18 Mar 2016

Eligible Singaporeans will not need to apply for the Silver Support Scheme - for those aged 65 or older - when it is launched this year, as they will receive their quarterly cash payments automatically.

The scheme, to help cash-strapped retirees cope with living expenses, is the latest to join the growing list of financial help programmes in which recipients are automatically included.

The Silver Support Scheme was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally in August 2014.

When the law was passed to implement the scheme last August, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said in Parliament that about 150,000 Singaporeans will receive a quarterly payout of $300 to $750 this year.

Asked for an update this week, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), which is spearheading the scheme, would say only that the details are still being worked out.

But a spokesman disclosed that those who are eligible "will automatically receive payouts as long as they remain eligible".

"All eligible recipients will be notified in due course," she added.

MOM would not say when or how eligible recipients would be notified, but the spokesman said: "We are finalising the eligibility criteria and operational details of the Silver Support Scheme.

"More information on the scheme will be announced during Budget 2016."

Mr Lim had said in Parliament previously that the Government will consider factors such as lifetime wages, the level of household support and housing type to determine if a person qualifies.

The scheme is one of the most highly anticipated government programmes of the Budget, which will be unveiled next week.

During campaigning in the general election last September, PM Lee described the scheme as one that helps seniors to "have a pension in old age".

It is part of a broader package that includes the Pioneer Generation Package and Central Provident Fund top-ups to give seniors greater peace of mind in their golden years, Mr Lee had said.

Mr Patrick Tay, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, welcomed the auto-inclusion scheme.

"This will make it seamless for all who qualify," he said, adding: "There may be Singaporeans who may be unaware or fail to apply for it for a variety of reasons."

He said there should be provisions for those who do not meet the criteria to be able to appeal.

Besides making it more effective to implement, the auto-inclusion scheme has other emotional and psychological benefits too, said Mr Seah Kian Peng, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family Development.

He said: "The seniors who are eligible for these schemes know they are being cared for by the Government. It adds to our quest to build a more caring and inclusive society."

* Majority of Silver Support appeals still pending
Seniors who do not qualify but need help can turn to Social Service Offices: Lim Swee Say
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 14 Sep 2016

The Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board has received about 2,300 appeals from members to be included under the Silver Support Scheme since July, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said yesterday.

Mr Lim told Parliament that some cases had been approved because the seniors' circumstances had changed in the past 15 months and they now qualified for the scheme, which provides quarterly payouts for low-income seniors. The first payouts were in July this year.

Some cases where seniors narrowly failed to fulfil one of the three criteria - lifetime wages or CPF contributions, housing type and level of financial support in the household - but met the others by a big margin were also approved on a case-by-case basis.

Other cases were rejected because the seniors were far from meeting the criteria, while the majority of appeals are still pending additional information and documents from the seniors so they can be reassessed, said Mr Lim.

"Seniors who do not qualify for Silver Support but require financial assistance can approach any Social Service Office for help," he said, in response to questions from Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten), Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC) and Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson).

The minister said the scheme is part of a three-tier system to help seniors with varying levels of need.

The first tier covers all seniors and includes MediShield Life, concession cards and foreign domestic worker levy concessions.

The second tier, for the majority of seniors, includes the GST Voucher and Lease Buyback schemes.

Silver Support, along with ComCare, Medifund and others, is in the third tier - for a minority of seniors who need even more support.

The first Silver Support payout in July covered about 140,000 citizens aged 65 and above, or three in 10 of those in that age group.

About two-thirds of seniors met the first criterion of total CPF contributions of $70,000 or less when they turned 55, said the minister.

Mr Lim Biow Chuan and Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) also sought flexibility on the per capita household income criterion, which must be not more than $1,100 a month.

Mr Lim Swee Say said that in marginal cases where the household size is small - for example, a mother with her son who earns $2,500, exceeding the qualifying per capita cap - the ministry would assess the situation "from a total perspective".

He said, in response to Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang), that while eligibility for the scheme is reviewed annually, seniors can request a review any time during the year. If they are eligible, they will qualify for support from the date of appeal.

The review for 2017 will be completed in November this year and those who qualify for Silver Support will receive letters of notification by December.

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