MPs seeing surge in Singapore residents seeking help with jobs, finances at meet-the-people sessions

21-Aug-2020 Intellasia | Malay Mail | 10:42 AM Print This Post

With physical meet-the-people sessions resuming across the island, Members of Parliament (MPs) have been seeing a surge in residents turning to them for help with employment and finances.

Some MPs said that up to half of their cases at these sessions have been about job-related concerns due to the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the first week since Desmond Choo resumed his meet-the-people session, the MP for Tampines Group Representation Constituency (GRC) has seen an increase in the number of residents turning to him for help in employment or financial assistance.

Physical meet-the-people sessions were allowed to resume from August 10 with a cap of 50 people or fewer depending on the size of the venue after safe distancing rules barred large groups of people from gathering.

Since the circuit breaker that restricted movement and activities in April this year, MPs were mostly conducting their sessions virtually, through platforms such as emails and WhatsApp.

People seeking job and financial support made up about half of the 70 or so residents who approached Choo at his meet-the-people session on Monday (August 17). Of these, about 25 turned up for the physical session at Blk 114 Tampines Street 11 while the rest contacted him via online platforms or WhatsApp.

Louis Ng, MP for Nee Soon GRC, said that while such issues did not make up the majority of cases since his physical sessions resumed on Monday, it was still a “key concern” among the 70 residents who approached him, both online and offline.

“Concern over jobs has definitely gone up among residents, especially since the start of the circuit breaker period. There are always appeals for the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme and the Covid-19 Support Grant. There are also a fair number of those facing financial issues,” Ng said.

Dennis Tan, the Workers’ Party MP for Hougang Single Member Constituency, also said that he has seen a spike in the number of people who approached him for help in appealing for pandemic-related government aid since the general Election last month.

Tan, who resumed physical meet-the-people sessions last Wednesday, observed that there were more residents applying for financial assistance schemes offered by social service organisations as well.

Coping with drop in income

When TODAY visited Teban Gardens in West Coast GRC on Thursday evening, there was a queue of 10 residents waiting to see their MP, Foo Mee Har.

One of them was retiree Govindasamy Perumal, 90, who needs help with his sickly wife’s medical bills. One of his five children also has job-related concerns, he said.

Perumal has met his MP twice in the last six months.

Another resident said that he has lost his job while another sought help after seeing a significant drop in his income.

Foo said that residents who raised these concerns make up half of the cases she had seen during the pandemic. These residents cut across different ages and income levels.

Similarly, Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Ng Ling Ling, who conducted her first physical meet-the-people session at Serangoon North yesterday evening, said that half of the 16 people who showed up sought help for issues related to jobs.

One such resident, a 49-year-old who did not want to be identified, told TODAY that he came to see Ng because he has been struggling to find a job for the last 16 months.

He is now employed in an engineering firm under a three-year contract, but it will terminate in a few months and his employer has chosen not to renew it. He hopes to be able to secure a job before his contract ends.

Ng said that most of the residents who have reached out to her for employment-related support are older residents in their 50s and 60s.

“They are trying very hard and their perception is that their chances of finding a job are really much lower than the younger ones.”

Job fairs and special funds

Choo of Tampines GRC said that while there was adequate job support available, residents usually needed help in identifying and applying for the relevant schemes. Choo has volunteers to guide residents in this area.

He also has volunteers from the National Trades Union Congress where he is the assistant secretary-general present at his meet-the-people sessions to help residents identify job and training opportunities.

Aside from pointing residents to job fairs, Ng and the community leaders in her ward have rolled out a “Jalan Kayu Care Fund” for residents aged 50 and above who have been jobless since July.

She said that she managed to help two residents who turned up yesterday to apply for the fund, which provides S$250 (RM763) a month for a period of up to six months.

Despite efforts by MPs to help their residents tide through this period, they said that it will likely take a while for residents to find a job in this climate.

“We have to tell residents it’s going to be a deep, long winter and we’ll be there for them during this process,” Choo said.


Category: Singapore

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