MSF minister unveils new packages to better support ComLink+ families

SINGAPORE: On Monday (20 Nov), Minister for Social and Family Development, Masagos Zulkifli, revealed further details regarding the enhanced ComLink scheme (ComLink+).

This program aims to offer increased financial assistance, contingent upon specific conditions such as stable employment, to lower-income families residing in rental flats and with children.

ComLink+ introduces two significant modifications. Firstly, it involves progress packages supported by both government and community funding. Secondly, it incorporates dedicated family coaches into its framework.

This new assistance initiative, encompassing support for preschool education as well, represents an upgraded iteration of the existing ComLink scheme, which currently aids approximately 14,000 families in similar circumstances.

Initially introduced by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong last month, this scheme forms a part of the government’s strategic adjustments to public policies under the Forward Singapore exercise, aimed at upholding social mobility.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) announced that the four progress packages, set to undergo a three-year trial, will offer financial supplements to families actively engaging with family coaches and taking proactive measures to enhance their situations.

Mr Masagos mentioned that these packages will be gradually implemented, starting from the latter half of 2024.

Specific actions constitute these steps, including enrolling children in preschool, securing stable employment, settling outstanding debts, and working towards homeownership.

S$500 in Child Development Account (CDA) top-ups for preschool enrollment at age 3

Families enrolling their children in preschool by the age of three will receive S$500 in Child Development Account (CDA) top-ups, funded by a generous donor.

Additionally, ensuring regular school attendance can earn them an extra S$200 per quarter.

MSF emphasized that this incentive aims to urge families to prioritize their children’s preschool education, ultimately enhancing their future educational prospects.

MSF emphasized that this incentive aims to urge families to prioritize their children’s preschool education, ultimately enhancing their future educational prospects.

“Local research shows that children who attended preschool from age 3 were less likely to require additional learning support in primary school, ” said MSF in a statement.

Encouraging more adults in ComLink+ families to join and sustain CPF-paying jobs at S$1,400/month

The second package within ComLink+ aims to support adults in these families in cultivating financial stability by incentivizing them to maintain employment in Central Provident Fund (CPF)-contributing jobs that offer a minimum salary of S$1,400 per month.

MSF outlined that individuals meeting these criteria will receive cash and CPF payouts ranging from S$450 to S$550 every quarter.

For households where two adults are employed, higher top-ups will be granted, although this is capped at a maximum of two working adults.

“This package will help families to build up their finances for their long-term goals such as buying a flat or saving up for retirement, and to better withstand unexpected setbacks in life (e.g., retrenchment, health issues),” said MSF.

ComLink+ to introduce donor-funded debt matching package for lower-income families

MSF said due to their limited disposable income and savings, low-income families face increased vulnerability to falling into debt or arrears during unforeseen circumstances like job loss or health emergencies.

The Ministry highlighted the significant financial, psychological, and emotional toll even a modest debt can have on lower-income families.

In an effort to assist these families, MSF plans to collaborate with donors to fully finance a progress package that matches families’ repayments to their creditors, covering debts up to S$5,000.

This one-time package applies solely to “verifiable debt,” encompassing debts owed to licensed companies and organizations with trackable repayment records, such as utility bill arrears, hospital bills, or credit card debts.

To be eligible, families must also not be receiving ComCare assistance, as this would usually indicate that the family has not attained financial stability in meeting their basic needs.

Notably, informal debts owed to family and friends, as well as debts to unlicensed moneylenders, fall outside the coverage of this package, as stated by MSF.

Saving for home ownership

ComLink+ families will receive assistance in saving towards owning a home.

Through a collaborative effort between a donor and the government, a progress package has been established to match every S$1 voluntarily contributed by families to their CPF with an additional S$2.

“This will help families save up more quickly for their flat purchase and give them a better chance of fulfilling this aspiration,” said MSF.

It’s important to note that payouts for both the home-saving and employment support packages will be capped at a total of S$30,000 across the two schemes.

With these recent initiatives,  Minister Masagos said families are now offered comprehensive parenting support and the opportunity to enrol their children in high-quality preschool programs during their formative years.

He further emphasized that individuals aspiring to secure employment are provided with a supportive environment to acquire necessary skills, find suitable job placements, and benefit from wage support.

“These moves demonstrate our community’s commitment to invest in long-term outcomes. Rather than quick fixes, we want to enable families to build resilience and secure sustained stability and self-reliance, and ultimately social mobility,” said the Minister.

“It may take a generation or more, but we know that by reinforcing families’ ability to provide their children with a good start in life today, we give them a better chance for a brighter tomorrow.”

While presently working closely with families, ComLink officers will expand their roles to become family coaches in the forthcoming program.

These coaches will engage with each family to create personalized action plans tailored to their specific needs. Their responsibilities encompass coaching and motivating families to pursue their objectives while acting as a primary point of contact to assist them in navigating social support services, as highlighted by MSF.

“When families feel understood and supported, they are more likely to actively participate in the decision-making process and take steps towards their goals,” said Minister Masagos.

He further added that families have expressed increased optimism about their future with the assistance of family coaches.

DBS and Singapore Pools among 170 entities supporting ComLink+ families

The ministry stressed the collaborative implementation of the program with community partners.

Around 170 organizations and individuals are collaborating with Social Service Offices to offer support to ComLink+ families.

For example, DBS is sponsoring the progress packages concerning children’s education and savings, contributing to CDA and CPF top-ups.

Additionally, Singapore Pools is a ComLink partner assisting in funding the progress package focused on debt clearance, estimated to aid up to 240 families, according to Mr Masagos.

Various entities such as companies, charitable and voluntary organizations, business associations, and schools are among the other partners involved in the ComLink+ initiative.

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