Mr Ngoh and his five children had to live with a clogged toilet bowl for months because he did not have sufficient savings to get it repaired.
The 40-year-old sole breadwinner could barely cover his family’s monthly expenses on his $1,300 salary as an assistant chef, much less set aside money for rainy days.
To help families struggling to make ends meet, like Mr Ngoh’s, Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) is launching the Family Development Programme (FDP) on 30 June 2016 to help them meet immediate needs and consequently, start saving for the future.
A key feature in the FDP is the debt and savings matching component. The first of its kind in Singapore, the FDP matches two dollars for every dollar that beneficiaries set aside to pay off chronic debt or towards savings, capped at $200 monthly.
“Chronic debt is a constant drain on our beneficiaries,” said MWS Group Executive Director Mrs Jenny Bong. “Many of them are unable to look forward and plan for the future because of the distress that the debt causes. They are also unable to save as they are in deficit every month. When crises such as illness or sudden unemployment occur, they sink further into debt and desolation.”
“The savings will be able to cushion them from such crises, reduce the distress they face, and help them to overcome these crises with fewer implications,” said Mrs Bong.
Through the debt and savings matching component, beneficiaries will also pick up basic financial literacy skills such as budgeting.
Other components of the FDP include help with cost of education, daily living expenses and milk supplements for babies and pregnant women.
In response to the multiple challenges that such families typically face, MWS takes on a wholistic approach to helping them.
The FDP looks at the family unit and provides assistance to the breadwinners, students, pregnant women and young children where needed, without the need for a different set of applications and assessments. Should the needs of the family go beyond the scope of FDP, the family can also receive help from the other 16 MWS centres and outreach programmes.
The outcomes from FDP will be collected, studied and evaluated to further improve existing components and develop new ones.
Last year, MWS also successfully ran the Getting-Out-Of-Debt (or GOOD) Programme to clear $1.6 million in chronic debt of 619 low-income families to commemorate Singapore's Jubilee. This has given the families a clean slate to start saving and planning for their future. The FDP is a follow up to GOOD to ensure that families continue to improve their financial situation.
The Family Development Programme will be launched at the MWS 35th Anniversary Thanksgiving Dinner, where Minister of Social and Family Development, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, will be Guest-of-Honour.
“This year, MWS would have served the vulnerable in Singapore for 35 years. Our focus has always been and will continue to be those who have fallen through the cracks. This will require us to be sensitised and responsive to changing needs of the social landscape and develop innovative and creative programmes,” said Mrs Bong.
Starting in 1981 with the Methodist Home for the Aged Sick with 24 residents, MWS now runs 17 centres and programmes that serve more than 12,000 beneficiaries a year.
In recent years, MWS started Residence @ St. George’s, a girls’ hostel that offers alternative probationary rehabilitation for troubled teenaged girls, the first of its kind.
In response to the implications of an aging population, MWS has also stepped up launches of Senior Activity Centres that reach out to a lesser served group, seniors living in non-rental homes like studio apartments.
These include Charis ACE, a senior activity centre in Geylang East opened in 2014 to serve the 3 to 5 HDB roomers, three upcoming MWS Senior Activity Centres for residents of studio apartments in Fernvale Rivergrove, Greentops at Sims Place and Teck Ghee Vista at Ang Mo Kio this year, and a 190-bed nursing home in Choa Chu Kang in 2017.