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Suggestions pour in for Silver Support Scheme

Rachel Au-Yong on 27 Feb 2015

The Straits Times


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The payouts of a new scheme to help the elderly poor should be given monthly, not quarterly, with the cash going straight to their bank accounts where possible, said an advocacy group for seniors.


Also, the criteria for getting the cash aid under the new Silver Support Scheme need to be flexible enough for cash-poor seniors living in bigger flats to receive it.


These suggestions from the PAP Seniors Group (PAP.SG), led by Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, were made yesterday, ahead of further details to be unveiled in the coming weeks.


Said Madam Halimah, PAP.SG chairman: "There are elderly people who live in five-room flats with their families, but they don't have an income and their children have other financial challenges.


"They should be considered lower-income and I hope they will not be disadvantaged."


Her comments come two days after broad details of the Silver Support Scheme were announced on Monday by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in the Budget statement.


The permanent scheme, to be rolled out in the first quarter of next year, aims to support the bottom 20 per cent of Singaporeans aged 65 and older, with a smaller degree of support extended to cover up to 30 per cent of seniors.


The Government said it will look at three factors to decide on eligibility: lifetime wages, level of household support and type of housing.


About 150,000 elderly Singaporeans are set to qualify, receiving between $300 and $750 every quarter. The average recipient will get $600 every quarter.


Adding to the PAP.SG's suggestions, Ms Tin Pei Ling, an MP who regularly raises issues on the elderly in Parliament, wants the Government to consider a person's final CPF balance, not just his lifetime wages.


Ms Tin is MP for the MacPherson ward in Marine Parade GRC, which has a larger than average number of elderly poor.


PAP.SG also said the scheme will be a great help for older housewives with low or no savings.


Others like Dr Kanwaljit Soin, a former Nominated MP who founded charity Women's Initiative for Ageing Successfully, or Wings, believe the Government can do more.


It should extend the scheme to cover "at least the bottom 40 per cent" of the elderly, she said. "We shouldn't just look at abject poverty, but make sure that everyone has a decent standard of living."


She also wants a pension scheme for all citizens older than 70. "A small allowance of about $200 every month gives an elderly member, who by definition becomes relatively poorer when he retires, a sense of dignity."


But the Silver Support Scheme seems to have made fans among would-be beneficiaries. All who were interviewed yesterday said it was an unexpected windfall.


Retired administrative assistant Chin Chu Eng, 81, who lives in a three-bedroom flat with her 85-year-old husband and gets about $800 monthly from her children, said in Mandarin: "If we get the money, then maybe I can buy better quality rice, and dumplings more often."


She said: "I can enjoy life a little bit more."


Former clerk Chey Yat Hoe, 66, who lives in a studio apartment with his wife, said the cash aid will supplement his monthly CPF withdrawals of about $600, without requiring him to dip into his cash savings.


"If we can save for a rainy day, it would give us greater peace of mind," he said.


The money will be a big help for retiree Ngai Hin Kwok, 66, who lives in a three-room flat with his 58-year-old homemaker wife.


He became a Singapore citizen 23 years ago, so he did not qualify for the Pioneer Generation Package. He also does not get an allowance from his two sons.


"My wife and I have always made do with what we have. But for the Government to have saved so much and give some to us, I'm really quite happy."


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

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