Mr Chairman, I want to draw attention to three possibly underserved groups in our social service landscape.
With full-time National Servicemen (NSFs), allowances start at $580, going up to $1,280 or more, depending on vocation. In most cases, NSFs need to depend on their family, at least in terms of housing, and are unlikely to be able to save anything without this support. Has the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) or other Government bodies studied whether these allowances have resulted in increased poverty within this group, for those from poorer families? My colleague Mr Gerald Giam raised a related issue recently.
Secondly, an ageing population means caregivers are in demand. This is often near-full-time work. Grant quantums are low and are not meant to replace paid work. For instance, the Home Caregiving Grant pays $200. Again, there is a dearth of research here.
Another underserved group is inmates. Inmates get 30 cents to $2.60 per hour at prison workshops. I have heard from ex-inmates that work programmes pay up to around $1,000 monthly. Has the Government studied the financial impact of incarceration and whether this, in turn, has impacts on poverty and recidivism?
Sir, I would like to suggest that financial and other state interventions for these at-risk groups be centralised under one agency under MSF, rather than be dispersed among different Ministries like MINDEF and MHA, so that expertise, resources and economies of scale around addressing poverty can be centralised and shared.
Ministry of Social and Family Development
3 March 2023