Enhanced Home Caregiving Grant: How it impacts caregivers in Singapore

PHOTO: Unsplash

In a bid to achieve a more inclusive society, the long-awaited White Paper was released on March 28, 2022 following more than a year of discussions.

Based on over 160 conversations on Singapore Women’s Development with nearly 6000 participants, the White Paper proposes 25 action plans to bring us closer to achieving a more inclusive society with greater equality between males and females.

Focusing on the enhanced Home Caregiving Grant (HCG) proposed in the White Paper, find out how this will impact caregivers in Singapore and serves as a step towards a more inclusive society.

The current Home Caregiving Grant

PHOTO: Unsplash

Introduced on Oct 1, 2019, the HCG currently offers $200 monthly cash payouts to qualifying Singaporeans to help families cover a portion of the caregiving expenses for loved ones with permanent moderate disabilities.

The current eligibility criteria

As of now, you will need to meet the following requirements in order to be eligible for the HCG:

  • Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident living in Singapore
  • Be means-tested to have a monthly per capita household income of $2,800 or less, or belong to a household with no income and living in a residence with an annual value of up to $13,000
  • Reside in a proper housing type in Singapore and not a residential long-term care institution
  • Have permanent moderate disability

To be considered to have permanent moderate disability, individuals have to require assistance with a minimum of three activities of daily living (ADL) which include the following:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Eating
  • Toileting
  • Transferring such as from bed to chair
  • Moving from room to room

How the current Home Caregiving Grant falls short

Despite the current efforts to aid caregivers, majority of which are females, many in need of the grant seem to fall short of the requirements.

Due to the rigidity of the qualifying criteria, many still slip through the cracks. In most cases, caregivers are in need of cash yet fail to meet the requirements. For instance, individuals who inherit houses that their parents have left behind for them are ineligible for the grant despite the fact that they may be strapped for cash.

Furthermore, as we experience increasing inflation, the costs of caregiving expenses will inevitably increase, making the HCG insufficient. With women four times as likely to leave their jobs due to caregiving responsibilities, it is no surprise that they too are feeling the pinch as a result of inflation.

As such, the HCG needs to be updated to meet the ever-changing needs of caregivers, where the majority are women, in Singapore.

ALSO READ: Care at home: Professional caregiver or at-home nurse?

Enhanced Home Caregiving Grant: Relieving caregivers’ financial strain

In recognition of caregivers’ contribution and financial struggles, under the action plan proposed in the White Paper, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will enhance the HCG to reduce the financial difficulties faced by caregivers with a focus on lower-income families.

Under the enhanced HCG, beneficiaries will be eligible for either a doubling of the grant from the current $200 to $400 or an increase of the grant to $250.

The revised eligibility criteria

Recognising the shortcomings and rigidity of the current eligibility criteria, in the enhanced HCG that has been proposed in the White Paper, the requirements have been changed.

To be eligible for the enhanced HCG, beneficiaries must now fulfil the following requirements:

  • Individuals with a monthly per capita household income of up to $1,200
  • Individuals living in a residence with an annual value of up to $13,000

As for individuals who fall outside of the categories mentioned above, you may be eligible for the increase of grant from S$200 to S$250. To be eligible for this, beneficiaries must have a monthly per capita household income between S$1,201 and S$2,800.

With the monthly income threshold falling to nearly half of the previous requirement, more individuals who initially earned more than the previous threshold yet still experience tight cash flow will be able to seek financial support.

Enhanced Home Caregiving Grant: A step towards a more inclusive society

Recognising that women often play a larger role in caregiving, which often costs them their work opportunities, the Recognition and Support for Caregivers action plan aims to better support women and caregivers in general financially.

While Singapore strives to achieve gender equality in the aspect of caregiving, the harsh reality is that women still shoulder a significant and disproportionate caregiving load. In a survey conducted by Women’s Development, it was found that women were four times as likely as men to have the responsibility to manage housework and caregiving duties. As society ages, this will only worsen with time.

As such, with the responsibility of caregiving mostly on women’s shoulders, it is inevitable that some will face a great financial strain. As such, with the enhanced ECG providing a higher cash payout and a less rigid qualifying criteria, the government hopes to be able to better support caregivers, where women form the bulk of them.

ALSO READ: Caregiver guide: How to start keeping a dementia journal for your loved one

Supplementing the enhanced Home Caregiving Grant

Of course, the enhanced HCG is insufficient in building a more inclusive society with greater gender equality between men and women and better support for caregivers. As such, the White Paper also houses other action plans which aim to ease caregiving load, provide care for caregivers’ well-being as well as other schemes to relieve caregivers’ financial strains.

Ease caregiving load

In a bid to ease caregivers’ loads, the White Paper proposes a broadening of the Household Services Scheme (HSS) to include basic child and elder-minding services. Better helping caregivers balance their work and family commitments such as looking after their children and activities for daily living, it aims to reduce a caregiver’s load.

Care for caregivers’ well-being

Being a caregiver is mentally taxing as well. As such, providing avenues for caregivers to take care of their emotional health is just as important as financial support.

Understanding the stress that a caregiver will go through, under the Recognition and Support for Caregivers action plan, the Agency for Integrated Care will be promoted as a one-stop resource for caregivers of seniors. Apart from the elderly, the government will also step up its support for more caregivers such as those caring for persons with disabilities and children with developmental needs.

An alternative: A savings account

Having to cope with the financial strains from caregiving expenses can be overwhelming. Should you find yourself strapped for cash, consider applying for a savings account to better finance your expenses.

A savings account is a great option to earn interest on your funds without the need to take big risks or forfeit access to your money for an extended period of time, such as with fixed deposits. With a myriad of options in the market, you can be sure to find the right savings account for yourself!

This article was first published in ValueChampion.