Welfare needs soar, but not giving

A Singapore Red Cross volunteer organising the donation tins to be used on its Flag Day.

SINGAPORE - Welfare needs have gone up nearly 70 per cent over the last five years but donations have not kept up, according to the Community Chest (ComChest), as it urged Singaporeans to be more generous ahead of the country's 50th birthday.

Honorary treasurer Frances Cheang said yesterday that ComChest needs to come up with around $93 million over its next financial year starting next month to meet the growing needs of its beneficiaries. This is up from $55.2 million five years ago.

But she noted that "donations from the community have not grown in pace with the rise of social needs over the last few years".

National Council of Social Service (NCSS) chief executive officer Sim Gim Guan said that it received $42.6 million from companies, foundations and individuals in 2010, but expects to collect a total of $38.5 million for the current financial year ending this month.

One reason for the dip, he explained, is that people are choosing to also support other causes such as education, such as school fund-raisers, and sports.

ComChest, the fund-raising arm of the NCSS, has had to tap into its surplus funds the last two years - with $6 million used in the last financial year.

The Singapore Totalisator Board, which runs lotteries and football betting, has also stepped forward to fill the gap, tripling its donations to $50.9 million for the next financial year.

Ms Cheang urged companies and individuals to be more generous, especially with the Government matching donations received this year dollar-for-dollar from a $250 million kitty announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in January. This is part of the run-up to the country's 50th National Day celebrations next year.

"ComChest needs to raise funds so that our funded charities can concentrate on what they do best, which is delivering the much-needed services to those who need them most," she said.

Dr Vincent Ng, executive director of The Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centres, which runs a range of programmes for needy families, at-risk youth and the elderly, said funds from ComChest come up to about a quarter of the organisation's operating budget.

"We can focus on helping our beneficiaries because of the steady stream of funds. But if donations fall it would be a concern as we would have to look at doing fund-raising ourselves, and resources of voluntary welfare organisations are usually very scarce."

Over the next financial year, ComChest will support 227 programmes serving more than 300,000 beneficiaries from 83 voluntary welfare organisations.

The organisation, which is on a year-long campaign to showcase the different causes that it supports, yesterday held an event at the HDB Hub in Toa Payoh to raise awareness of the challenges people with disabilities face.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin joined Mr Sim and representatives of key partners in playing basketball while on a wheelchair, to get a feel of the difficulties that people with physical disabilities go through.

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