CDAC ready to step up worker training, aid as more seek help

June 21, 20169:51 am316 views
CDAC ready to step up worker training, aid as more seek help
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong (second left), who chairs the CDAC’s board of directors, said its core programmes reached out to about 20,000 low-income households last year, a 13.5 per cent increase from 2014. Photo: Kenneth Cheng

SINGAPORE — More people turned to the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) to seek financial and other forms of assistance in the first few months of this year, amid turbulent economic conditions and rising layoffs last year.

And the self-help group for the Chinese community here said it stands ready to provide vulnerable families with an assistance package that includes financial support, if the economic slowdown worsens.

Speaking to the media after the council’s 24th Annual General Meeting yesterday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who chairs the CDAC’s board of directors, said its core programmes reached out to about 20,000 low-income households last year, a 13.5 per cent increase from 2014.

The council provided 12,000 low-income families with financial and other forms of assistance, including its parenting programme last year. This is a 20 per cent increase over the figure in 2014, said Mr Sam Tan, who helms the CDAC’s family workfare and support committee.

In addition, the CDAC has seen an increase of 20 per cent in the number of people seeking financial assistance from the council from January to May this year, compared with the same period last year, said Mr Tan, who is also Minister of State (Prime Minister’s Office and Manpower).

There has also been a 10 per cent rise in the number of people seeking assistance from its Workfare programme in the same period, compared with the year before. Its Workfare programme helps low-income families become self-reliant through employment.

While the council cannot pinpoint the cause of these spikes, Mr Tan cited layoffs, the uncertain economic climate and the CDAC’s greater outreach efforts as likely contributing factors.

Through conversations with clients, the council observed that people came forward to seek financial or Workfare support because the family’s breadwinner was laid off.

This, he added, was corroborated by the retrenchment numbers last year, when 15,580 workers were made redundant. Last year’s figure was a jump from the 12,930 workers laid off in 2014.

The council’s extensive efforts in reaching out to the community also encouraged groups previously unaware of the CDAC’s programmes to step forward.

On offering families assistance during a downturn, Mr Gan noted that during the 2009 economic downturn, the CDAC offered an initiative called the CDAC Opportunity Programme.

While every economic downturn is different, and the nature of a downturn must be assessed, he said the basic framework of such an assistance package — including worker training and financial assistance — would remain, but tweaks might be required based on “where are the needs in terms of help and support”. “Both the board of trustees and the board of directors are very supportive that if there’s a need, we will be there to really help the needy families,” he said.

Helped by an increase in contribution rates last January, the CDAC received S$21.2 million through monthly contributions to the CDAC Fund in 2015.

It posted a net surplus of about S$3.4 million after accounting for revenue from programme fees, government grants and subsidies, and funding support from the CDAC Endowment Fund — the first after three consecutive years of deficits.

It is now drawing up an action plan for the coming years amid changing demographics and evolving community needs, following suggestions that emerged from a strategic review exercise started in April. The last review was done about eight years ago.

Mr Gan said the broad directions include a focus on promoting the values of self-reliance and mutual support. Better-off families, for example, could play a part by providing financial contributions, volunteering or extending opportunities to CDAC’s beneficiaries.

The council also provided an update on its current programmes. Last year, about 16,700 students benefited from CDAC’s programmes, an increase of about 4 per cent compared with 2014, said Ms Low Yen Ling, who chairs the CDAC’s student education and development committee.

It also supported about 8,000 students through its bursary and subsidy schemes.

Four centres offering after-school care for primary school students will open next Monday, at Fuchun Primary, Greenwood Primary, Teck Whye Primary and Yumin Primary. They are among the 30 student care centres that the four community self-help groups aim to set up together by 2020.

Currently, they operate six centres, run by a joint venture company.

With Singapore’s population ageing, the CDAC is also looking at how to better engage this group, such as by tapping its wide network from its student programmes, to reach out to their parents and grandparents and better understand their needs.

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