NEEDY families have been given several shots in the arm, including an expansion of the Public Assistance Scheme and the launch of a new ComCare programme to help those temporarily out of work.
Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister of State Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon announced the new measures in Parliament on Wednesday during the debate on their ministry's spending plans.
All in, these latest initiatives - to be implemented in July - will help another 10,500 needy cases, to add to the 17,500 already receiving help under ComCare as at the end of last year.
Public Assistance Scheme
For starters, MCYS will up the Public Assistance (PA) allowance rates from $290 to $330 a month for elderly individuals, and from $855 to $1,020 a month for a needy family with two adults and two children.
Families with five or more members will see their PA allowance go up from $940 to $1,100 a month.
The eligibility criteria to qualify for PA has also been relaxed. Someone who is needy, permanently unable to work, and whose family members cannot support him or her because of their own family commitments, can now also be put under PA.
ComCare Transitions Scheme
For those who cannot work temporarily and don't qualify for PA, there's now ComCare Transitions - a new interim financial assistance scheme that helps them with their rental, utilites, service and conservancy charges, and medical expenses.
To qualify, such individuals must have medical certificates or have heavy caregiving responsibilities.
They will be helped for up to 12 months, but this can be extended if their circumstances remained unchanged.
The scheme will be run by Community Development Councils (CDCs).
Help measures for children from needy families
Also on the cards - the Kindergarten Financial Assistance Scheme (Kifas) for low-income families will be extended to cover nursery programmes at eligible non-profit kindergartens.
Children from such families will get subsidies of up to $65 a month to offset the cost of their nursery education.
Similarly, subsidies under the Centre-based Financial Assistance Scheme for Childcare (CFAC) will see an increase of up to $20 a month to hit up to $340 a month for needy families.
MCYS will also create a new tier under both Kifas and CFAC for families earning between $1,501 to $1,800 a month, so that more lower-income households will be encouraged to send their children to pre-school.
The Ministry said it will also devote more resources this year to grassroots organisations, VWOs and self-help groups.