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Longer financial help for School Pocket Money Fund beneficiaries

Singapore, September 22, 2011 - The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (SPMF) is going the extra mile to help needy students receiving financial aid for their school-related expenses.

From 1 October 2011, the Fund will extend the period of financial assistance for primary and secondary school students from families with complex needs from the current two years up to an additional two more years. The need for extended assistance will be assessed by social workers of the Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs), based on the circumstances of each family.

This enhancement to the SPMF disbursement policy was jointly announced on Thursday (Sept 22) by Ms Tina Hung, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) and Ms Bertha Henson, organising chairman of the SPMF, at an annual briefing for SPMF disbursing agencies and social workers at the Singapore Press Holdings News Centre Auditorium. The move will provide longer assistance to about 200 students who require additional support because of their especially difficult family circumstances.

Primary school pupils now get $55 a month from the Fund, and secondary school students $90 per month. Through professional assessments by social workers, students can benefit from extension beyond the two-year cap to help them tide over difficult situations. Alongside with disbursing SPMF, social workers also provide casework and counselling services to these students and their families by working closely with them to improve their situation and help them to achieve self-reliance in the long run.

With the extension from two to four years, SPMF would have to disburse about $330,000 more a year to those getting extra support.

In yet another step to help struggling families, the SPMF and NCSS, which administers and reviews the use of the funds, have also revised the income criterion to qualify for SPMF assistance from gross to net income (income after CPF deduction) as they feel it is a better indicator of a family's disposable income.

Take the case of Mr Tan who earns a gross salary of $2,000 per month and has a take home pay of $1,600 after CPF deduction. Assuming that he has a family of four, the family would have a gross monthly PCI of $500, which means his children would not be eligible for SPMF (current SPMF income criterion states that to qualify, the family's gross monthly PCI must be $450 or less). With the change in income criterion, Mr Tan's children can benefit from SPMF without sending in an appeal through the disbursing agency.

Ms Henson, who is Associate Editor of The Straits Times, which initiated the SMPF as its community project in 2000, said: "The extension of the help period will make it less onerous for families which may require SPMF support beyond the stipulated cap, as this requires social workers to write in to us again for approval, which may delay help.”

Ms Hung of NCSS added: "It will reduce the administrative burden on social workers and minimise the disruption to the family getting continuous support from SPMF. SPH and NCSS are stretching the Fund to go the extra mile to reach out and provide more help to those in genuine need of extra support. NCSS will continue to review the use of the fund to ensure that needed help is extended to deserving families requiring assistance."

Mr Han Fook Kwang, Editor of The Straits Times, said: "Over the years, the School Pocket Money Fund has taken steps to extend help where it's most needed to make sure it remains relevant and accessible to needy students. It has raised the monthly quantum for students three times in recent years and simplified its practices - all with the interest of the students in mind. The latest enhancement in disbursement will ensure that students from financially-strapped households continue to get the help they need with no disruption."

Since its launch in October 2000, the School Pocket Money Fund has raised nearly $44 million and helped over 85,000 needy cases from low-income homes. The number of students receiving assistance from the SPMF is estimated to be about 8,700 per year. The NCSS disburses the funds through its network of 38 Family Service Centres, two agencies providing single parent family services, 18 Special Schools/ disability VWOs, six Children's Homes and the Assumption Pathway School.

Jointly issued by Singapore Press Holdings Ltd
Co. Regn. No. 198402868E
and National Council of Social Service

For more information, please contact:

Ms Chin Soo Fang
Corporate Communications
Singapore Press Holdings Limited
DID: 6319 1216

Mr Yeo Siew Chi
Assistant Manager
Corporate Communications
Singapore Press Holdings Limited
DID: 6319 1586

Ms Irene Ngoo
Vice President
Editorial Projects Unit
Singapore Press Holdings Limited
Organising Vice Chairman
The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund
DID: 6319 1066
HP: 9683 0737

Ms Goh Siew Hian
Corporate Communications Division
National Council of Social Service
DID: 6210 2638

Mr George Suah
Corporate Communications Division
National Council of Social Service
DID: 6210 2641

Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

Incorporated in 1984, main board-listed Singapore Press Holdings Ltd (SPH) is Southeast Asia’s leading media organisation, engaging minds and enriching lives across multiple languages and platforms.

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National Council of Social Service

The National Council of Social Service is the umbrella body for about 400 member Voluntary Welfare Organisations in Singapore. Its mission is to provide leadership and direction in social services, to enhance the capabilities of social service organisations, and to promote strategic partnerships for social services. In FY2010, $215 million was disbursed to 453 programmes in the social service sector.