Needy getting help depends on where they live (luck)?

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By: Leong Sze Hian

Gaps in helping needy

I refer to the article “Plugging gaps swiftly for needy” (Straits Times, Mar 30).

It states that “When families find themselves in sudden financial difficulty, it usually takes a few days – or weeks – for them to get help from grassroots and community groups.

This often leaves them without cash for food, transport or other immediate needs, especially after the death or retrenchment of a sole breadwinner. And children tend to be hit hardest.

Another new initiative

Hence, initiatives like Toa Payoh East-Novena’s Quick Action Aid programme to provide immediate support to families that have experienced a sudden change in circumstances are timely.

So they banded together and raised about $50,000 to provide immediate support – within 48 hours – to affected families with children. An affected child will get about $150 a month for between two and six months to cover day-to-day expenses before other agencies or voluntary organisations step in.

Besides financial aid, the scheme links affected families to neighbours with similar experiences, as a form of social support.

As Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Saktiandi Supaat noted, there is a short gap between the time a family’s circumstances change and when agencies step in. He said: “The fund tries to minimise that so that children, especially, will not experience too big a disruption, which can affect them greatly and permanently.”

Schemes in other constituencies

Similar schemes have been rolled out by grassroots and other groups in other constituencies.”

Some have, some don’t?

It would appear that some constituencies have such schemes, whilst others don’t, and the type and quantum of assistance varies.

Depend on luck?

So, does it mean that a needy family may have to depend on luck – dependent upon where they live?

Why can’t the Government fund and operate such a scheme across all constituencies?

Very low welfare spending?

After all, our welfare spending as a percentage of total government spending and GDP, is probably the lowest among developed and developing countries, and the Budget surplus last year was $5.2 billion?

As to “During a visit to Toa Payoh East-Novena ward on Sunday, Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said ground-up efforts like Quick Action Aid complement existing schemes.

Give more money, not more bureaucracy?

What is needed next is better coordination to avoid duplication of services and enable better allocation of resources. Social Service Offices already coordinate the work of various helping hands on the ground with a localised touch. More can be done by various groups to work together and, more importantly, plug gaps for those who need help” – wouldn’t it be better to just give the money that is needed in the short term, instead of spending tens of millions of dollars to set up and operate the 23 social service offices, which is arguably adding yet another layer of complexity, bureaucracy and costs to our already very complicated system of welfare delivery through community development councils (CDCs) and family service centres (FSCs)?