Bolstering Support for Caregivers
Mr Chairman, there are over 210,000 Singaporeans who do the full-time work of caregiving. They are the backbone of our ageing care system and should be recognised and supported more formally.
I spoke about “Carefare” in Parliament in the past two COSes and I advocate for it a third time now. Carefare, as an income supplement is needed by stay-home caregivers from low-income families, especially who are forced by circumstances to give up their jobs and livelihoods to care full-time.
Because of how retirement adequacy in Singapore is tied so much to employment, caregivers who give up their most productive earning years because of care needs in their families are exposed to old age poverty and this cannot be right.
Bringing forward financial support mitigates the stress faced by caregivers over finances, anxiety towards their own ageing, which contribute to long-term chronic health conditions like hypertension and diabetes, among others. These will in turn exacerbate the healthcare cost burden down the road, which will only get worse as our population ages. Why do we wait to give, if giving now can helps us to save more costs in future?
Other than direct income support, MOH can help redistribute the day-to-day care load from caregivers’ shoulders by helping to scale community solutions. This can also prevent caregivers from having to give up their jobs in the first place.
Nee Soon South is piloting a Caregiver Resource Centre where a peer support network is being built for caregivers. And this initiative helped me to see the potential of the grassroots to be tapped for this purpose.
I urge MOH to partner with MCCY to build the community’s aging care capacity through the People’s Association platform. We can even explore creating a time-banking system in the likes of Japan’s model which allows seniors to swap services for free. They provide companionship, help run errands, cook for the bedridden when they are still physically able and can exchange their time credits for similar services when they themselves get older and less physically able.
Such social connection helps to fight elderly loneliness and reduces reliance on financial resources of the elderly in old age.
Watch the speech here.