C. Building a Caring and Resilient Society
Building on Strong Foundations
C.1. I have spent some time on how we will transform our economy through enterprise and innovation. We seek to transform our economy so that we continue to have the resources and opportunities for our home to be safe, and our people to find fulfilment. Together with a strong economy, we need to build a caring and resilient society.
C.2. We want a Singapore which is a great place to raise a family, and where we bring out the best in every Singaporean; a society that takes care of those who have special needs, who are less well-off or who have fallen on hard times; a society where our seniors age with energy and dignity.
C.3. Over the last decade, the Government has invested more in our schools and preschools. We have done more for families with children, through measures like the Baby Bonus and additional leave for parents. We have strengthened the four pillars of our social security system – home ownership, healthcare assurance, CPF and Workfare. We have also enhanced ComCare, and made help more accessible through the Social Service Offices.
C.4. This Budget builds on what we have done, and looks at new ways to build a caring and resilient society. We will forge a deeper partnership between individuals, the community and the Government, catalyse ground-up initiatives to build caring and cohesive neighbourhoods, and pilot new ways to reach out to our seniors.
Caring for Our Young
C.5. I will first speak about the measures for our young – First Step, KidSTART and Fresh Start.
Supporting Families with Children
Child Development Account First Step Grant
C.6. We will introduce a new Child Development Account (CDA) First Step grant for all Singaporean children. Parents will automatically receive $3,000 in their child’s CDA, which they can use for their children’s healthcare and childcare needs. This will apply to eligible babies born from today.
C.7. Parents who save more will continue to receive dollar-for-dollar matching from the Government, up to the co-savings cap. For example, if they put $3,000 into their first or second child’s CDA, they will receive an additional $3,000 in matching grants, bringing the total Government CDA grant to $6,000, for a total of $9,000 in the account.
C.8. Similarly, parents with more children will receive the CDA First Step grant. They can receive higher matching grants, as shown in the table. (See Table 2.)
C.9. We will also double the Medisave withdrawal limit for pre-delivery medical expenses, from $450 to $900, with immediate effect. Details are in the Annex. (Refer to Annex B-1.) The Senior Minister of State in charge of the National Population and Talent Division will elaborate on further measures to make Singapore a great place for families at COS.
C.10. Next, we will pilot a new initiative, called KidSTART, for children in their first six years. There is extensive research which shows that experiences in the early years of a child’s life significantly influence his or her physical, cognitive, and social development.
C.11. We have been enhancing development programmes through our preschools and primary schools. However, there is a small group of parents who may need more support to give their children a good start in life.
C.12. KidSTART will draw together government and community resources, to help these children receive appropriate learning, developmental, and health support. We will develop approaches that work best in the Singapore context.
C.13. About 1,000 children are expected to benefit. This pilot is expected to cost more than $20 million. The Minister for Social and Family Development will elaborate on this at COS.
Fresh Start Housing Scheme
C.14. We will also do more to help families with children in rental housing. The Prime Minister mentioned the Fresh Start Housing Scheme at last year’s National Day Rally. There are some families who previously bought a flat, but sold it, and are now living in public rental flats. These families are not eligible for housing grants for first-timers, as they had received a housing subsidy before. For those who are determined to work hard to own a home again, we want to give them a fresh start.
C.15. The Fresh Start Housing Scheme will provide a grant of up to $35,000 to help such families with young children to own a 2-room flat, with a shorter lease, which will be more affordable for them. Families will need to demonstrate effort, for example, by staying employed and making sure their children attend school.
C.16. The Minister for National Development will provide more details at COS.
Building Resilience in our Youth
National Outdoor Adventure Education Masterplan
C.17. To thrive, our young need a sense of adventure, resilience, and be ready to challenge themselves to be their best. To help our students develop these attributes, we will expand outdoor adventure education for all students, through a new National Outdoor Adventure Education Masterplan. As part of this effort, we will build a new Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) campus on Coney Island. This is an artist's impression of the campus.
C.18. Many more youths will have the chance to go for an expedition with OBS. These activities will help them build confidence, and develop camaraderie with students across different schools.
C.19. The OBS campus on Coney Island is expected to be ready around 2020, and cost about $250 million. Just like the OBS campus on Pulau Ubin, it will be rustic, and blend in with the rest of the island. Coney Island remains open for everyone to enjoy. MCCY and MOE will provide more details later.
Caring for Our Low Wage Workers and Persons with Disabilities
C.20. For our children and youth, we concentrate on providing them opportunities through education. For adults, we focus on opportunities through work – through which we learn and contribute, and derive personal pride and dignity. There are three groups who may need more support in the workforce: seniors, low wage workers, and persons with disabilities. We can do more together to help them.
C.21. I spoke earlier about the extension of the SEC, to encourage employers to hire seniors. I will now speak about helping our low wage workers, and persons with disabilities.
Enhancements to Workfare
C.22. The Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme has encouraged workers who are 35 years old and above to join the workforce, by supplementing their income and CPF savings. They can also upgrade their skills through the Workfare Training Support scheme and SkillsFuture.
C.23. We will further improve WIS for work done from January 2017.
C.24. First, we will raise the qualifying income ceiling from the current average wage of $1,900 a month, to $2,000 a month. WIS will continue to help the bottom 20% of workers, with some support also provided to those in the 30th income percentile. In total, we expect WIS to benefit about 460,000 Singaporeans.
C.25. Next, we will increase WIS payouts. Eligible workers will receive higher payouts. Payouts will vary depending on their age and income. For example, workers earning $1,000 to $1,600 a month31 will receive increases in payouts of $100 to $500. Workers will continue to receive 40% of WIS in cash and 60% in CPF.
C.26. To illustrate, an older worker aged 55 earning $1,200 a month will now get a total of $2,900 a year from WIS, with about $1,200 in cash, and $1,700 in CPF a year. He will then have $3,500 more in his CPF account at age 65.
C.27. We will also simplify the qualifying criteria for WIS. Today, to receive WIS, one has to work 2 out of 3 consecutive months, or 3 out of 6 consecutive months, or 6 out of 12 months in a year. We will now pay WIS for every month worked.
C.28. By simplifying the qualifying criteria, workers can also look forward to receiving WIS payments more quickly – monthly rather than quarterly.
C.29. With these enhancements to WIS, the total budget will be about $770 million a year. (Refer to Annex B-2.)
Supporting Persons with Disabilities at Work
C.30. Many persons with disabilities also want the opportunity to contribute through work. We should support them. Today, those who meet the WIS eligibility criteria receive WIS, even if they are under 35 years old. They will benefit from the WIS enhancements I spoke about earlier.
C.31. Employers who hire persons with disabilities who earn up to $4,000 a month will continue to receive the SEC. They get a credit of up to 16% of the employee’s wages, twice as large as the SEC for older workers.
C.32. Currently, only low wage workers 35 years old and above are eligible for the Workfare Training Support scheme. We will now also enable persons with disabilities who earn low wages and are under 35 years old, to be eligible for the Workfare Training Support scheme, so that we can better support them in their learning.
C.33. The Public Service will play its part in expanding job opportunities for persons with disabilities, with support from SGEnable. The Minister for Social and Family Development will speak on the review of the national Enabling Masterplan at the Committee of Supply.
Caring for our Seniors
C.34. There will be many more seniors amongst us in the coming years. The proportion of Singaporeans aged 65 and above will double from 1 in 8 today, to 1 in 4 by 2030. How we adjust, and turn this into a source of strength, will shape our society. Together, we must, and will make Singapore a model for successful ageing, and empower all to age with dignity and vitality.
C.35. In this Budget, we will increase retirement support for seniors who have lesser means. We will also build strong communities, to support active ageing and engagement in the community.
Implementation of Silver Support Scheme
C.36. At Budget 2015, we spoke about the introduction of the Silver Support Scheme. It is a major new feature in our social security system. Some of our older Singaporeans have fewer resources in their retirement years than others, because they earned low wages even after working consistently throughout their lives, or because they stayed home to raise their families.
C.37. The aim of Silver Support is to support the bottom 20% of Singaporeans aged 65 and above, with a smaller degree of support extended to cover up to 30% of seniors. It can be a modest but meaningful supplement to their retirement incomes. It is not intended to substitute for other sources of support, whether from their own savings or family support. Silver Support also complements other forms of assistance they may receive from existing schemes, whether it is Workfare, healthcare subsidies or the GST Voucher.
C.38. Silver Support is not only for the neediest of our seniors. For the truly needy, we have the safety net of Public Assistance (PA), which I will speak about shortly.
C.39. Over the past year or so, we have deliberated with care on the fairest way of identifying those who are the bottom 20% to 30% of our seniors. As no single criterion allows us to assess needs and operationalise the scheme effectively, we will use three criteria in combination – lifetime wages, housing type, and the level of household support.
C.40. The first criterion, lifetime wages, is measured by the amount the individual has contributed into his CPF accounts in total32 by the age of 55. Seniors who have not more than $70,000 in total CPF contributions by age 55 will meet the first criterion. We do not look at CPF contributions after 55, to encourage older Singaporeans to continue working.
C.41. The second criterion is housing type. Silver Support will cover the seniors who live in and own a 4-room or smaller HDB flat33. Seniors who live in 5-room HDB flats, but do not own the flat, will also qualify if they meet the other criteria.
C.42. The third criterion is household support. Seniors in the bottom one-third of households where, on average, each member earns not more than $1,100 per month, can benefit from Silver Support.
C.43. Together, these three criteria allow us to make sure Silver Support goes to those who have lower incomes over their lifetimes and less retirement support.
C.44. Eligible seniors will receive between $300 to $750 every quarter, depending on their flat type. (See Table 3.) The majority of seniors living in 1- and 2-room flats will receive Silver Support. About half of the seniors living in 3-room flats will also receive Silver Support.
C.45. To illustrate, take a retired couple living in a 3-room flat. Each had put less than $70,000 into their CPF accounts by the age of 55, perhaps because they were in low-wage jobs throughout their working lives. By all three counts, the couple qualify for Silver Support. The couple would receive $600 each in Silver Support payouts every three months, or $4,800 together over the whole year. This will not change or stop any other support they are receiving – such as the GST Voucher or healthcare subsidies through CHAS. For such couples, Silver Support can be very meaningful.
C.46. There may also be some seniors in lower-income households who qualify for Silver Support, but subsequently no longer need it, for example because their children are able to provide stronger financial support. The converse may also happen, resulting in the senior needing more support. So we will make an assessment annually to take into account changes in circumstances, to make sure we target Silver Support at those with lesser means.
C.47. We earlier announced that we would implement Silver Support around the first quarter of 2016. As this is a new and extensive scheme, we needed more time to operationalise it. We will make the first payout in July this year, and it will be a double payout for two quarters – the two quarters of April to June 2016, and July to September 2016. The next two payouts will be made in end-September and end-December. Each one is a payout for the coming quarter. In subsequent years, payouts will be made in March, June, September and December.
C.48. CPF Board will notify eligible seniors before the first payout is made. There is no need for seniors to apply; this will happen automatically.
C.49. Silver Support will benefit more than 140,000 seniors, and will cost close to $320 million in the first year. The cost will likely increase over time as our population ages. (Refer to Annex B-3.)
C.50. The majority of our seniors, even if they do not qualify for Silver Support, will continue to benefit from substantial existing support schemes. These include the GST Voucher, higher healthcare subsidies through MediShield Life premium subsidies and the Pioneer Generation Package, foreign domestic worker levy concessions, and eldercare subsidies. Some could also choose to realise the value of the property they own, through renting it out, or making use of the enhanced Lease Buyback Scheme or the Silver Housing Bonus. This is on top of the support from children which many receive.
Community Networks for Seniors
C.51. Let me now turn to successful ageing. We care about enabling our seniors to stay active and healthy, to stay meaningfully engaged.
C.52. I recently met Mrs Lucy Tan, who is the Cluster Director of PEACE-Connect. PEACE-Connect has been taking care of needy seniors in Kampong Glam for the last 20 years.
Lucy related to me how she has seen the social and medical needs of the seniors evolve over the years - they grew ever more complex, affecting more and more seniors. Lucy and her organisation had to evolve too. She realised PEACE-Connect would have to work with more partners if they wanted to support seniors better. She has been developing partnerships with other organisations, and with the support of her Advisor, Ms Denise Phua, she has integrated these resources well. For instance, she works with Kampong Glam CC to provide subsidised meals daily to some residents in the area, and links seniors up with services that they need at town councils and Social Service Offices.
C.53. Lucy shows what is possible when we strengthen partnerships. To better support leaders like Lucy, we will pilot Community Networks for Seniors. These networks will comprise local stakeholders, such as Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs), community volunteers, schools and businesses. At the core, the network will have a small team of full-time officers who will study the health and social needs of seniors and draw together stakeholders to provide coordinated support.
C.54. We hope to help seniors discover health conditions earlier and manage them well, while connecting those who are healthy and mobile to a wide range of activities to encourage seniors to stay active, healthy and engaged in the community.
C.55. Under this pilot, our Pioneer Generation Ambassadors will, through their outreach, encourage seniors to stay active and connect them to relevant support.
C.56. There will be a group of seniors who may require more help, such as frail elderly living alone, who have limited family support. These networks will provide more targeted and coordinated health and social support for them.
C.57. By integrating the resources and efforts of government agencies, VWOs and local volunteers, these networks can make a big difference to support seniors to stay active and engaged. It will also be a new way of service delivery, and a meaningful way to realise the Action Plan for Successful Ageing launched last year. We will pilot these Community Networks for Seniors in a few areas. If successful, this pilot can be scaled up later.
Other Measures Affecting Households
C.58. I have spoken about our care measures for the young, low-wage workers and those with disabilities, and seniors. We will also provide some additional support to households in general.
Increase in Public Assistance34 and Singapore Allowance
C.59. Those who are permanently unable to work, and have little or no means of income and family support, currently receive free or highly subsidised social services and free medical treatment in polyclinics and public hospitals.
C.60. In addition, they receive a basic monthly cash allowance through the Public Assistance scheme. Additional amounts are provided for families with children, and for needs such as medical supplies and household appliances. Public Assistance recipients also often receive assistance in cash, food delivery and other vouchers from community-based agencies and grassroots volunteers.
C.61. We will raise the basic monthly cash allowance. For example, a two-person household, where both are on public assistance, will now receive an additional $80 a month, bringing the amount of cash assistance per month to $870. The Minister for Social and Family Development will announce more details at COS.
C.62. To help government pensioners who draw lower pensions, the Government will increase the Singapore Allowance and monthly pension ceiling by $20 per month each – to $300 and $1,230 respectively. This will benefit about 10,000 pensioners.
One-off GST Voucher – Cash Special Payment
C.63. To support households amid current economic conditions, we will provide a one-off GST Voucher – Cash Special Payment of up to $200 for eligible GST Voucher – Cash recipients. In total, eligible households can receive up to $500 in GSTV – Cash in 2016. (See Table 4.) If our recipients spend some of these in our neighbourhood shops, it will support our local businesses as well!
C.64. The one-off GSTV – Cash special payment will cost an additional $280 million in 2016 and benefit 1.4 million Singaporeans. (Refer to Annex B-4.)
Service & Conservancy Charges Rebate
C.65. We will also provide one to three months of Service & Conservancy Charges (S&CC) rebate. 1- and 2-room HDB households will receive a total of three months of rebates for this year, while 3- and 4-room households will receive two months of rebates. (See Table 5.)
C.66. This will cost the Government $86 million and benefit about 840,000 HDB households. (Refer to Annex B-4.)
Personal Income Tax Relief Cap
C.67. We will also make a tax change. We currently have 15 personal income tax reliefs. We have enhanced many of these over the years. Each tax relief serves a worthy objective, such as to supplement retirement savings, encourage mothers to work after having children, or take up a course.
C.68. However, taken together, the tax reliefs may unduly reduce total taxable incomes, for a small proportion of individuals.
C.69. I will introduce a cap on the total amount of personal income tax relief an individual can claim, at $80,000 per Year of Assessment. At this threshold, 99% of tax-resident individuals will not be affected. Many can still continue to enjoy reliefs. For instance, among those currently claiming the Working Mother’s Child Relief, 9 out of 10 are expected to continue to claim it fully, without being affected by this cap.
C.70. This cap will make our personal income tax system more progressive. Nevertheless, our personal income tax burden remains low. Our personal income tax structure must allow us to continue to stay competitive.
C.71. The personal income tax relief cap will take effect from YA 2018 and is expected to raise an additional $100 million a year.
Building a Caring Society
C.72. Let me now speak of what we will do to bring Singaporeans together to build a caring society.
C.73. Today, our schools have meaningful values-in-action programmes for our students to help others. At work, businesses are well placed to run impactful programmes. We should give a boost to Corporate Social Responsibility and make it easier for employees to contribute through their workplaces. This Budget will support the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre’s efforts to promote and build capacity for giving among corporates.
Samsui Supplies and Service
C.74. I have seen some inspiring examples. For instance, Samsui Supplies and Service, a food retailer, uses their kitchen facilities to prepare 2000 free meals a day for the needy.
We must encourage more businesses to step forward.
C.75. This Budget will also catalyse more ground-up initiatives, to better tap on the creativity and energy of Singaporeans, many of whom want to give back. Such citizen-initiated efforts can drive community-based and neighbourhood-based initiatives. Let me speak about these.
Business and IPC Partnership Scheme
C.76. Currently, we allow for 250% tax deduction for donations of cash, and qualifying in-kind donations such as land and computers, to certain Institutions of a Public Character (or IPCs). This has seen good results, with cash donations rising each year.
C.77. Many employees also want to volunteer and we hope businesses will support them. To do so, I will introduce a pilot Business and IPC Partnership Scheme. From 1 July 2016 till the end of 2018, businesses that organise their employees to volunteer and provide services to IPCs, including secondments, will receive a 250% tax deduction on associated cost incurred, subject to the receiving IPC’s agreement. This deduction will be subject to a yearly cap of $250,000 per business and $50,000 per IPC.
Supporting Community Chest Giving
C.78. Community Chest (ComChest) plays a critical role in raising funds for about 80 VWOs across the entire social sector, including the Family Service Centres and special education schools. ComChest’s monthly donation programme, SHARE, enables it to receive regular donations, through payroll deductions or GIRO. Some businesses have been active in supporting SHARE.
C.79. To give a boost to ComChest’s good work, I will provide dollar-for-dollar matching for any additional donations through SHARE, over and above the FY2015 level. We will do this for three years, starting from April this year. Where businesses encourage their staff to donate regularly, we will allow part of the matching funds to be used by them to organise Corporate Social Responsibility activities. The Minister for Social and Family Development will elaborate at COS.
Our Singapore Fund
C.80. For SG50, we started the SG50 Celebration Fund. We had a very good response, and supported close to 400 projects initiated by Singaporeans from different walks of life, to celebrate our Jubilee year, and to build a sense of community.
Ms Seema and Ms Harsha Dadlani
C.81. These are Ms Seema and Harsha Dadlani, two Singaporean sisters who are passionate about writing and helping children learn. With support from the SG50 Celebration Fund, they wrote and published six children’s books about Singapore, which were very well received.
Mr Dennis Quek and Mr Wilson Ang
C.82. Also, I recently met Mr Dennis Quek and Mr Wilson Ang.
They organised a project to take 100 wheelchair users on a tour of Pulau Ubin, getting help from over 600 people to do so – including help from the Singapore Navy to ferry the participants on navy vessels. When I met them recently, I asked them why they did what they did. They told me they just wanted to share the parts of Singapore they love with fellow Singaporeans who may not be able to have the same experiences they do. When I told them it was kind of them to do so, they said they got a lot more out of the project than they put into it - in terms of learning, new friendships, appreciation for what can be achieved when many people come together for a common cause. They were amazed at how many people came forward, to realise the power of partnership.
C.83. To support passionate citizens like Seema, Harsha, Dennis and Wilson, and many others like them who created a whole array of meaningful SG50 projects, we will set up a new fund, called Our Singapore Fund. It is Our Singapore Fund because it is about how we all can come together in partnership to share our strengths, share our loves, create something more and better together, to build our Singapore together. The Fund will support projects that build the spirit of caring and resilience, nurture our can-do spirit, and promote unity and our sense of being Singaporean.
C.84. The total fund size will be up to $25 million and it will be set up by the second half of 2016. The Minister for Culture, Community, and Youth will elaborate at COS.
C.85. I hope that these three measures will catalyse efforts for a kinder and more caring society. The details of these measures are in the Annex. (Refer to Annex B-5.)
Ms Norashidah binte Mohd Yassin
C.86. I would like to share a story which shows how working together can make a big difference. This is Ms Norashidah binte Mohd Yassin, who is 39 years old this year. Three years ago, she was staying in interim rental housing with her two young children, without family support or income.
C.87. With the support of her MP, Dr Maliki Osman, who coordinated the help from a welfare organisation, PAVE, grassroots volunteers and various Government agencies, she gradually got back on her feet. She first took on ironing of clothes for her neighbours, then baking, after getting a baking certificate. She later got a job as an administrative assistant and was soon promoted. Today, her children are well adjusted, and she is waiting for her flat.
C.88. Her story is inspiring not just because of her remarkable progress, but also because she is now reaching out to help others who are in the same situation that she used to be in, counselling them and teaching them baking skills.
C.89. This is the spirit of the society that we are building. It is one where we rise above our circumstances, to build a better life for ourselves and our children. It is a society that cares for those in need, and where those who are helped do their part to help others. It is a society that we are all proud to be a part of.
Last updated on 24 Mar 2016