'Who'll look after them when I die?'

'Who'll look after them when I die?'
Family relies on father, 83, to take care of mentally disabled wife, son and daughter. The sole breadwinner is a hoarder - flat piled with discarded items that he sells to the karang guni.

Last week, the Ministry of Social and Family Development announced a pilot programme in Parliament where multiple agencies would work together to give specific help to vulnerable families.

For sole breadwinner Lai Peng Nan, however, being able to get food and medicine may not be enough to ease his worries.

Mr Lai gets help, such as monthly food packages, from various welfare groups. His family also gets public assistance.

But finances are not his only worry. He can afford to live, he told The New Paper, but not to die.

His wife, 75, daughter, 55 and son, 52 are mentally disabled.

Mr Lai has another son who works as a labourer, but he has a family to feed in Batam. His two other daughters committed suicide 10 years ago.

He said: "Luckily, I'm still healthy for my age, but who'll look after them (his family members) when I die?"

Taking care of them is not easy.

When TNP caught up with him recently, he was heading home with a spring in his step.

The plastic bag the 82-year-old was holding was bursting with the spoils of the day - five discarded aluminium pot lids. Mere trash in other people's eyes, but they were worth far more to Mr Lai.

He said in a mixture of Mandarin and Teochew: "Do you know how expensive aluminium is?"

When sold to the karung guni man, the lids would fetch $2 or $3, he estimated.

That meant a boost to a monthly income ranging from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars.

Madam Tay, Mr Lai's wife, scuttles into the bedroom whenever visitors arrive. Mr Lai said: "She doesn't like people seeing her in this state. She used to be okay, but now she stays at home and doesn't like to go out."

It was only when The New Paper left the three-room flat in Serangoon that she re-appeared.

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