D. A CARING AND COHESIVE SOCIETY
D1. Mr Speaker, Sir, I earlier spoke about how we will grow our economy and improve our city.
D2. What ultimately matters is having a united people with a common purpose – to build the kind of society we want to live in and pass on to our children to improve.
D3. When I first entered politics, one of my first projects was Our Singapore Conversation. It gave me and my colleagues a unique opportunity to converse with Singaporeans about their aspirations for themselves and for Singapore.
D4. One of the things that struck me was the deep sense of responsibility that Singaporeans felt and shared – a responsibility towards the future of their family, community and country.
D5. As Singapore undergoes demographic and societal changes that place greater demands on families, the community and the Government, we must face these changes together, and respond collectively as one.
a. Over the past decade, the Government has increased support for our citizens, providing greater assurance through schemes like MediShield Life and the Pioneer Generation Package, while giving extra help to those with less through Workfare and Silver Support.
b. The Government will continue to strengthen social safety nets for those in need.
c. At the same time, individuals, families and the community play an important role in looking out for and supporting one another.
D6. That is why we launched the SG Cares movement:
a. To bring together the public, private and people sectors;
b. Create greater collective impact;
c. And build a more caring and cohesive society for ourselves and future generations.
D7. Budget 2018 will build on the SG Cares movement in three ways.
a. First, we will support individuals and families to better prepare for the future and care for one another.
b. Second, we will strengthen partnerships between the Government and the community to support our seniors and those in need.
c. And third, we will encourage a spirit of giving in our people.
Supporting Individuals and Families
D8. I will first talk about how we will better support Singaporeans and their families.
Increased Support for Education
D9. Education helps our children realise their full potential. We invest heavily in every child, to ensure that everyone, regardless of background, has access to a quality education.
D10. This Budget, we will increase support for education in three ways.
D11. First, we will increase the annual Edusave contributions provided by the Government from $200 to $230 for each primary school student, and from $240 to $290 for each secondary school student.
a. This will take effect from January 2019.
D12. Second, we will update the income eligibility criteria for the Edusave Merit Bursary and the Independent School Bursary, to benefit more students from lower- to middle-income families. (Refer to Annex C-1.)
D13. Third, we will increase the support to students from lower-income families.
a. We will enhance the MOE Financial Assistance Scheme by raising the annual bursary quantum for pre-university students, from $750 to $900, and updating the income eligibility criteria.
b. We will also cover more meals for secondary school students under the School Meals Programme.
D14. Students in special education schools will also benefit from these enhancements.
D15. Overall, these schemes will cost close to $200 million per year. The Minister for Education (Schools) will provide more details at the COS.
Support for Financial Planning
D16. Besides education, we will support our people to prepare for their financial needs at key stages of their lives.
a. This starts from giving our youth a good foundation in financial literacy. We will pilot a new financial education curriculum at our polytechnics and ITE.
b. We will also enhance existing services to Singaporeans at HDB, when they buy a flat, and at CPF Board, when they approach retirement, to enable them to make better-informed decisions at these major milestones.
Review of ElderShield
D17. We will support Singaporeans to prepare for their healthcare needs in old age.
a. We are reviewing ElderShield, an insurance scheme that helps those with severe disabilities cope with the financial demands of their daily care.
b. To ensure that the enhanced scheme remains affordable, we will provide premium subsidies for lower- and middle-income Singaporeans.
c. We will provide an update later in the year, after the ElderShield Review Committee delivers its final recommendations.
Enhanced Proximity Housing Grant
D18. This Budget, we will also strengthen support for family members to live with or near each other.
D19. We will enhance the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG).
a. First, we will increase the PHG for families buying a resale flat to live with their parents or children to $30,000.
i. Those buying a resale flat near their parents or children will continue to receive a PHG of $20,000.
b. Second, we will enhance the PHG for singles, who are often a key source of caregiving support within their families.
i. Singles who buy a resale flat to live with their parents will now receive an enhanced PHG of $15,000.
ii. Those who buy a resale flat near their parents will also now receive a PHG of $10,000.
c. Third, we will simplify the criterion for determining what is “near”. Currently, it is defined as living in the same town or within 2km.
i. To give applicants more choices when choosing a resale flat to live near their loved ones, including flats in nearby towns, we will revise this criterion to simply “within 4km”.
d. These enhancements will take immediate effect and cost an additional $80 million per year.
D20. Together with the recently-enhanced CPF Housing Grant, and the Additional CPF Housing Grant, a first-timer applicant can now receive up to $120,000 in housing grants when buying a resale flat to live with their parents, a 50% increase compared to three years ago.
Extension of Service and Conservancy Charges Rebate
D21. We will also support households with their expenses.
a. Last year, eligible HDB households received 1.5 to 3.5 months of rebate on their Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC).
b. We will extend these rebates for another year. This will cost $126 million and benefit about 900,000 households. (Refer to Annex C-2.)
Foreign Domestic Worker Levy
D22. Finally, we will make adjustments to the foreign domestic worker (FDW) levy framework.
a. Over the past 10 years, the number of FDWs in Singapore has increased by about 40%, to 240,000 in 2017.
b. We must ensure that FDW demand is commensurate with need and avoid an over-dependency on FDWs.
D23. At the same time, we recognise that some families may need help caring for young children, the elderly, or family members with disabilities.
a. Today, such families enjoy a monthly concessionary FDW levy of $60. About 80% of Singaporean FDW employers benefit from this concession.
b. We will retain this monthly concessionary levy rate of $60.
D24. In light of the improving life expectancy and health of Singaporeans, we will raise the qualifying age for the levy concession under the aged person scheme from 65 to 67 years.
a. All households with persons aged 65 and 66, which are enjoying or have enjoyed the levy concession under the aged person scheme before 1 April 2019, will continue to pay the monthly levy rate of $60.
D25. For employers who do not qualify for the levy concession or employ multiple FDWs, we will raise the FDW levy. For the first and second FDW employed without levy concession, the monthly levy will be raised from $265 today to $300 and $450 respectively.
D26. These changes will take effect from 1 April 2019, to give employers time to adjust. To help meet demand for part-time household services, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is also piloting the Household Services Scheme. (Refer to Annex C-3.)
Strengthening Partnerships between the Government and the Community to Support our Seniors and Those in Need
D27. I just spoke about how the Government will support our people to prepare for their future and care for one another.
D28. Let me now speak about how we will strengthen the Government’s partnership with the community to better care for our seniors and those in need.
D29. Our community partners play an important role in this.
a. Being on the ground, they are more attuned to the specific needs of local communities, and can respond more nimbly and quickly.
D30. At the same time, the efforts of the Government and our community partners need to be well coordinated. Our “many helping hands” need to work “hand-in-hand”.
Community Networks for Seniors
D31. In 2016, I announced the pilot of the Community Networks for Seniors (CNS). CNS brings together Government agencies and community partners to do ABC.
a. A is for Active Ageing, to encourage seniors to remain active and stay healthy.
b. B is for Befriending, to link up lonely seniors with new friends.
c. And C is for Care, for frail and vulnerable seniors.
D32. The CNS has helped many seniors, including Mr Willie Fox and Mrs Lena Fox.
a. Mr and Mrs Fox, who are in their 80s, told our Pioneer Generation (PG) Ambassadors that Mr Fox tired easily and had to use a wheelchair frequently.
b. Our PG Ambassadors referred them to CNS, which enrolled them in the Care Line, a 24-hour tele-befriending service launched by the Eastern Health Alliance.
c. CNS also referred Mr Fox to the Evergreen Circle Senior Activity Centre, where he now participates in weekly exercises and enjoys healthy soups cooked by volunteers!
d. Mr Fox now feels stronger and healthier, and has almost stopped relying on his wheelchair. He and Mrs Fox are also enjoying making new friends.
D33. I believe that the CNS model can meaningfully improve the lives of many other seniors. To reach out to and serve more seniors, we will expand CNS nationwide by 2020.
Integrating Health and Social Support for Seniors
D34. The CNS pilot also showed us how we can streamline and improve the delivery of services to our seniors. Social- and healthcare needs are closely inter-related and both have an impact on the well-being of our seniors.
D35. To enable these services to be planned and delivered holistically, we will consolidate social- and health-related services for seniors under the Ministry of Health (MOH).
a. From 1 April this year, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will transfer its social aged care functions under the Senior Cluster Network and other programmes to MOH.
D36. With this transfer, the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) will be designated the central implementation agency to coordinate such services for seniors and their caregivers.
D37. In addition, to support the expansion of CNS nationwide, we will merge the Pioneer Generation Office (PGO) with AIC.
a. PGO will serve as AIC’s outreach arm in implementing CNS.
i. It will reach out not only to Pioneers, but to all seniors aged 65 and above.
b. To reflect its enhanced role, PGO will be renamed “Silver Generation Office”. Our friendly Ambassadors will continue to knock on doors wearing their familiar shirts, only they will now be called the Silver Generation or SG Ambassadors. I am certain seniors will continue to welcome them warmly.
Community Silver Trust and Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund
D38. This Budget, I will also top up two funds that support our seniors to age confidently in the community.
D39. First, I will provide a $300 million top-up to the Community Silver Trust (CST), which provides dollar-for-dollar matching for donations to eligible VWOs providing long-term care services.
a. Since 2011, the CST has matched around $500 million in donations raised by more than 80 VWOs.
b. To support more programmes, we will also expand the CST to match donations raised for active ageing programmes. (Refer to Annex C-4.)
D40. Second, I will provide a $100 million top-up to the Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund (SMF), which provides subsidies for assistive devices and consumables for seniors. Another $150 million will be spent over the next five years for transport to subsidised eldercare and dialysis centres.
a. We will review SMF in the coming years, to ensure that subsidies remain targeted.
Strengthening Social Service Offices
D41. Besides improving support for our seniors, we will also improve the delivery of social services to other groups in society.
D42. Over the next five years, we will strengthen the role and capabilities of our Social Service Offices (SSOs) to better coordinate the efforts of Government agencies, VWOs and community partners in providing more holistic and citizen-centred support to those in need.
a. Our SSOs will work with these partners to harness and optimise community resources, and identify areas where volunteers can complement service delivery.
b. Our SSOs will also improve work processes and the sharing of information among organisations for better coordination.
D43. These efforts will bring quicker and more effective assistance to our citizens, to help them get back on their feet. The Minister for Social and Family Development will elaborate at the COS.
Encouraging a Spirit of Giving
D44. Even as we strengthen support for our seniors and vulnerable, at the core of a caring and cohesive society are people who have the heart to give back to the community and make a difference to the lives of others.
a. Take Madam Patma for example.
i. Madam Patma has been a member of the Choa Chu Kang Residents’ Committee for almost two decades. She also volunteers as a befriender with Fei Yue Community Services.
ii. Madam Patma looks out for her neighbours, cares for sick and lonely seniors, and organises activities that bring the community together. Many of her neighbours look forward to the delicious home-cooked food she brings to the Cosy Corner at her HDB block.
iii. In the process of helping others, Madam Patma has found a stronger sense of fulfilment and purpose in life.
D45. Many of us share Madam Patma’s spirit, and are actively giving back to the community.
a. I am heartened that over the last decade, our volunteerism rate has doubled, from around 17% to 35%6.
b. At the same time, total donations have increased from around $2.0 billion in 2011 to $2.7 billion in 20157.
Encouraging our People to Give Back
D46. To foster this spirit of giving in our people, we will enhance support for measures that encourage everyone to contribute to the community.
a. I will extend the 250% tax deduction for donations made to Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) for another three years, until 31 December 2021. (Refer to Annex C-4.)
b. We will also enhance our one-stop platform, Giving.sg, to better match donors and volunteers with charities that need support. (Refer to Annex C-4.)
c. In addition, I will increase support to our five Community Development Councils (CDCs).
i. Today, the Government matches $3 for every $1 that the CDCs raise, up to an annual cap of $24 million.
ii. From FY2018 onwards, I will increase the current annual matching grant cap for CDCs from $24 million to $40 million. (Refer to Annex C-4.)
Encouraging Corporate Giving
D47. At the same time, we will encourage corporates to support their staff to volunteer or donate.
D48. In 2016, we piloted the Business and IPC Partnership Scheme (BIPS).
a. Businesses that support their staff to volunteer and provide services to IPCs receive a 250% tax deduction on associated costs incurred.
b. An example of an IPC that has benefited is the Shared Services for Charities (SSC).
i. So, through SSC, accounting firms provide pro bono services, such as reviews of internal controls, risk assessment and audits, to charities. These firms receive tax deductions, while enabling their staff to volunteer meaningfully.
c. I will extend BIPS for another three more years, until 31 December 2021. (Refer to Annex C-4.)
D49. Corporates can also support their staff to donate regularly to the Community Chest through SHARE.
D50. Since we launched SHARE as One at Budget 2016, which provides dollar-for-dollar matching on donations to SHARE, more than 440 new companies have come on board.
D51. To encourage more companies to support SHARE, I will extend the SHARE as One scheme until FY2021. (Refer to Annex C-4.)
Empowering for Life Fund
D52. Finally, I will provide dollar-for-dollar matching on donations received by the Empowering for Life Fund (ELF) under the President’s Challenge, for the next five years.
a. This will support the ELF’s work to fund programmes in skills upgrading and employment for the most vulnerable in society.
D53. In total, we will set aside around $190 million per year to support these enhancements to encourage philanthropy and volunteerism. (Refer to Annex C-4.)
Together, a Caring and Cohesive Society
D54. Mr Speaker, Sir, I have spoken about how this Budget will:
a. Support individuals and families;
b. Strengthen the partnership between the Government and the community to support our seniors and those in need; and
c. Encourage a spirit of giving in our people.
D55. It is this shared responsibility – with individuals, families, community, and the Government all playing their part and supporting one another – that has made our society what it is today, and that will keep our society thriving in the years ahead.
D56. This Budget will support all of us to stay true to this SG Cares spirit and to work together to build a caring and cohesive society.
Last updated on 19 Feb 2018