She is a social worker who knows first-hand what it feels to be poor. Cindy Ng, the Assistant Director of Covenant Family Service Centre (FSC), remembered that at one point, her children almost qualified for the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, which doles out $55 to $120 for school-going children from households with less than $450 per capital income. These days she is focused on fighting poverty with her clients. Cindy has a special affinity with her clients. “If God were to put me in my clients' shoes, given their lack of resources and circumstances, I might have made the same decisions they made and gone through the same pain and helplessness. It would be too simplistic to blame the poor for being poor,” she said.
“Issues of social injustice always had a huge impact on me. I have also always been interested in human behaviour. That led me to be heavily involved in volunteer work from the beginning. I think it’s the natural path for me to take (to become a social worker),” she said.
Her own brush with poverty has fueled her passion to advocate for those in need. In her work at the Covenant FSC, Cindy developed a scheme that has helped her clients get out of the red.
The seeds of the Family Development Programme (FDP) were planted when she was pursuing her Master of Social Work during a two-year hiatus to take care of her two young children.
While researching on United States’ Individual Development Account, which helps the poor build up savings, she thought, “If dollar-for-dollar matching can be done for savings, why not for debt payments?” Upon returning to Covenant Family Service Centre after completing her Masters, she rolled out the FDP, to match every dollar that the client earns to clear his or her arrears, coupled with credit counselling workshops. The aims of FDP are to help clients reduce their debts and build up sufficient savings to ride out some of the rougher storms they may face such as loss of income and unexpected illnesses.
Six clients were chosen for the pilot of the FDP and after just eight months, the programme has seen promising results. All six clients made progress in reducing their arrears, mainly with Singapore Power and the Town Council, while two of them have cleared their debts completely. While encouraged by the improvement in the financial state of her clients, Cindy was more thrilled at the psychological impact of the programme. “They feel empowered now to take charge of their family financial situation and they become more committed and confident,” she said. “They need to master their financial situation. Taking charge of debt is the beginning of recovery. It motivates them to take care of the rest of their lives. In the long run, the aim is to help increase their savings.”
The nascent success of the FDP has led to its extension to other Methodist Welfare Services’ Family Service Centres, namely Daybreak FSC and Tampines FSC. Cindy is currently working on improving the programme by monitoring and studying the progress of the clients to find out which components make the programme tick. “I think that as a good social work practitioner, evidence-based practice is very important. This will give us concrete evidence when we have sufficient data.”
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Too young to be exposed
NURTURE DISADVANTAGED CHILDREN
REHABILITATE JUVENILE DELINQUENTS
EMPOWER FAMILIES IN DISTRESS
CARE FOR THE CHRONICALLY ILL, DESTITUTE AND FRAIL
ENGAGE THE SOCIALLY ISOLATED