'Range of aid for needy, flexible rules'

'Range of aid for needy, flexible rules'
He was also to head the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), a new ministry set up in November 2012.

SINGAPORE - Singapore has many helplines for people with differing needs, and the rules are flexible when they do not meet the qualifying criteria but are genuinely in need, said Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on Monday.

This assurance from Mr Chan came amid renewed calls for Singapore to identify an official poverty line after Hong Kong set one in September.

Some MPs had argued it would focus on the state of poverty here and track how it is addressed.

But Mr Chan had rejected their argument at last month's parliamentary session. He said it risks a "cliff effect", where those below the poverty line get all forms of help while citizens who are genuinely in need but outside the poverty line are excluded.

Yesterday, he defended again Singapore's multi-pronged help strategy as Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC), Ms Lee Li Lian (Punggol East) and Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong asked about the eligibility criteria of social assistance schemes.

Handing out a rainbow-coloured chart of a range of aid that gives bigger sums to the low-income, Mr Chan said: "It shows how we share the fruits of our success with all Singaporeans by providing more for those with less."

On one end are broad-based subsidies for essentials such as housing and health care, and for development, which stretch from early childhood care to education and training.

Such help covers a broader group of Singaporeans, and the lower-income get more support, he said, citing the Community Health Assistance Scheme for lower- and middle-income families with per capita household income of up to $1,800 a month.

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