MPs yesterday called for more support for the vulnerable within the community, such as low-income families, women who bear heavy caregiving burdens and those who struggle with digital literacy.
During the first day of the Budget debate yesterday, they put forth various suggestions, such as streamlining assistance scheme applications, providing all low-income households with free broadband connection, giving assessments of online literacy, and creating a public registry of professional caregivers that can be tapped for short-term respite care.
Mr Don Wee (Chua Chu Kang GRC) proposed a better use of data technology to cut the administrative work and processing time for social assistance applications.
One way is to share social service offices’ records with schools so that children in need do not have to separately apply for financial assistance and school pocket money fund schemes, he said.
Medical records stored in the National Electronic Health Record can also be shared with social service offices so that adults unfit for work and unable to find jobs can get the necessary assistance quickly.
“Many of the applicants are frustrated as they have problems navigating the variety of programmes and initiatives,” he said.
Mr Wee also called for more nutrition and homework support for children from low-income families, and childcare support for parents who work night shifts but have no alternative childcare arrangements.
Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) also spoke on more support for the vulnerable, such as those who are less digitally literate and may fall prey to online scams, as well as low-income families that may not have adequate computers and Wi-Fi connection for their children who have to study from home, especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
He noted that low-income families can currently apply for subsidised personal computers (PCs) and free broadband through the Infocomm Media Development Authority. “But owning a PC is not enough. We need to make sure that families have devices that are functioning at a high enough standard for good online learning,” said Mr Seah.
Ms Yeo Wan Ling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) spoke on the need to better support women, in areas such as achieving their full potential and having fulfilling careers, relieving their caregiving burdens, and ensuring a safe workplace environment free of harassment.
She suggested that a geography-specific registry of professional caregivers who can help with eldercare, childcare and cleaning services be created for women to more easily access short-term, in-community respite care.
She noted that while respite care options exist, they may not be affordable for certain families that already carry the burden of expensive medical bills and daily expenses.
“Thus, it presents itself as necessary for there to be additional subsidies to help primary caregivers relieve the financial burden of seeking assistance,” she added.
Ms Yeo, who is also the director of NTUC’s women and family unit, also proposed that a Singapore Centre for Working Women be set up.
She painted a picture of what is possible: “Imagine, a single resource centre for women… where women can come to explore new livelihood options, air grievances, seek mentorship, access best practices, apply for support, seek redress, form alliances and of course, assist and guide other women along.”