HPHPF creates petition to waive electricity charges for needy elderly in rental flats

I refer to the article “Petition to Ministry of Social and Family Development to waive ‘Pay-as you-use’ for seniors in rental flats” (theonlinecitizen, Apr 25).

It states that “Local volunteer group, Happy People Helping People Foundation (HPHPF) has created a petition – “Waive ‘Pay-as you-use’ charges for seniors staying in rented flats. Light is a necessity” which is to be presented to the Ministry of Social and Family Development to ask for the ministry to consider the waiver of utility bills for senior citizens living in rental flats.

The HPHPF posted on Facebook about the petition on 23 April 2017.

Many elderly can’t pay electricity bills

In their petition, HPHPF wrote about a survey they did to find out more about the problems senior citizens living in rented HDB flats are facing. Through the survey, HPHPF found out that many of them are having difficulty paying their bills.

Many among them are using the Pay-as-you-use (PAYU) system in their homes because they are not able to fulfill their monthly commitment of paying bills.

For those who are unaware, for those who are often behind payment of utility bills, the utility company will install a unit that will monitor the usage of the electricity and will cut the power once the pre-paid credit is used up.

Sometimes people either donate to help them clear their bills, or their MPs assist to write off the amount.

Hazard of living in darkness?

HPHPF wrote, “There are also many that owes Singapore Powers a great sum for not paying their bills for months. While there are many who seeks help through SSO & MP, results often do not come immediately and many end up living in the darkness of their small flat. This can be especially dangerous for elderlies because of their failing eyesight.”

“Many of these elderlies are either living alone or with another person who is also an elderly,” HPHPF said.

HPHPF hopes that the government considers waiving electricity charges for senior citizens, ‘especially those who are staying in rented flats because many of them are no longer working and most of them are earning very little by selling tissue paper, selling recycled cans and cardboard boxes‘. Growing old without support and care from children can be very difficult for these seniors, the not-for-profit foundation added.”

Financial assistance from ComCare?

The first thought that came to my mind when I read the above, was – shouldn’t these elderly poor in rental flats be receiving financial assistance from ComCare?

Thanks again to Regular Insider

Almost as a timing of coincidence – my regular insider ES had just sent me some ComCare annual reports, highlighting the inadequacy of our welfare system.

According to the ComCare annual report for FY2015 – 39,548 unique households (86,759 unique beneficiaries) received $130.2 million of financial assistance from ComCare.

$274 monthly assistance per household?

So, does it mean that the average monthly financial assistance was about $274 per household ($130.2 million divided by 39,548) or about $125 per beneficiary ($130.2 million divided by 86,759)?

Can survive on $300 monthly financial assistance?

Isn’t these amounts arguably, kind of low? How does a family survive on about say $300 a month?

$163 monthly assistance per household in 2006?

About nine years ago – according to the ComCare annual report for FY2008 – in FY2006 – about 21,000 cases (unique households) (looking at the chart) received about $41 million of financial assistance from ComCare.

So, does it mean that the average monthly financial assistance was about $163 per household ($41 million divided by 21,000)?

Can survive on $200 monthly financial assistance?

Arguably, how did needy households survive with say about $200 of monthly financial assistance, about nine years ago in 2006?

Single mother & child – $360 for 9 months; family of 5 – $100 for 3 months?

In this connection, it was reported in the Straits Times on 23 April that a single mother and her daughter living in a one-room HDB rental flat received only $360 for nine months, and a family of five earning $1,600 take-home pay received only $100 for three months from ComCare.

More ComCare statistics?

Can ComCare please give us more detailed information and statistics as to exactly how much financial assistance it is actually giving to needy Singaporeans?

Leong Sze Hian

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