MPs highlight groups that fall through cracks

Several MPs rose on Wednesday to champion groups in society who fall through the cracks of the system, from vulnerable families to the poor, elderly and the disabled.

Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) led the charge in the debate on the Ministry of Social and Family Development budget by calling for the social safety net to be more flexible and targeted.

The "many helping hands" approach, while in line with national values, is also a matter of "financial tightness" on the Government's part, argued Mr Seah, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family Development. "Can we afford for the Government to be one of the larger helping hands?" he asked. This hand should be extended first to vulnerable families, such as those with breadwinners in jail and single-income families, he said.

He also called for single mothers to be treated as "mothers first and singles second", urging that they get benefits like maternity leave.

Dr Lily Neo (Tanjong Pagar GRC) asked for special intervention, like daily supervision, for children from the lowest income families so they get a shot at moving out of the poverty trap.

Nominated MP Laurence Lien criticised the current approach to helping the poor, which he said stripped away their dignity.

He said aid schemes should look at root causes and people's needs beyond income levels.

Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris- Punggol GRC) asked the ministry to commission a study on what a "living wage" - the amount needed to afford the basic costs of living - is in Singapore.

Mr Chen Show Mao (Aljunied GRC) proposed letting senior citizens aged 70 and above travel free on public transport, and giving more discounts to the elderly at attractions.

Three MPs asked for an update on the Enabling Masterplan. Mr Seah, Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC) and Ms Low Yen Ling (Chua Chu Kang GRC) asked for more help for adults with disabilities.

Ms Phua suggested building more day activity centres and helping those who are able to work to get better job placement and training, while Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) called for public transport concessions for adults with Down's syndrome.

andreao@sph.com.sg


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