SINGAPORE – Seniors in Singapore with lesser means will soon get more retirement support when the Silver Support Scheme kicks in this July, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said during his Budget speech in Parliament on Thursday (Mar 24).
First announced at last year’s Budget, the scheme will cost the Government close to $320 million in its first year, and will benefit more than 140,000 senior citizens.
The scheme supports the bottom 20 per cent of Singaporeans aged 65 and above. A smaller degree of support will be extended to cover up to 30 per cent of seniors.
However, Mr Heng revealed that the first payouts would be made in July this year, and not in the first quarter as previously announced, as more time was needed to operationalise the scheme.
In his speech, he noted that some of Singapore’s elderly have fewer resources in their retirement years because they earned low wages or stayed home to raise their families.
The Silver Support Scheme, he said “can be a modest but meaningful supplement to their retirement incomes”.
He also revealed that three criteria would be used to identify those eligible for the scheme:
1. Lifetime wages – Seniors who have less than $70,000 in total CPF contributions by the time their 55 will be eligible.
2. Housing type – Seniors living in four-room or smaller HDB flats qualify. Those who live in five-room HDB flats, but do not own the flat, will also qualify if they meet the other criteria.
3. Household support – Seniors in the bottom one-third of households where each member earns less than $1,100 a month on average are eligible.
Eligible seniors will receive payouts of between $300 and $750 every quarter, depending on their flat type.
Mr Heng said that the first payout in July will be a double payout for two quarters – April to June 2016 and July to September 2016. He added that the following two payouts will be made in end-September and end-December.
Senior citizens do not need to apply for the scheme, and the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board will notify those eligible before the first payout, and payments will be automatic.
Mr Christopher Norton, Director (Healthcare) at PwC South East Asia Consulting, said: “Budget 2016 demonstrates a commitment to support the ageing population through the implementation of the Silver Support Scheme, improving the health and well-being of all.”
However, the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) said that lifetime earnings should be the primary criterion for determining whether a senior citizen is eligible for the Silver Support Scheme.
Ms Jolene Tan, the advocacy group’s programmes and communications senior manager, pointed out that a senior citizen may not be able to access the value of housing owned or income earned by family members. “Housing type seems heavily determinative of the level of Silver Support available, which means older people’s needs still risk going unmet.”
Meanwhile, Mr Heng also announced that community networks, comprising small teams of officers who will study the health and social needs of seniors, will be piloted.
“Together, we must, and will, make Singapore a model for successful ageing, and empower all to age with dignity and vitality,” he said.