Less judgment and more focus on how we can help is needed

The plight of a visually impaired senior citizen denied government aid has put the spotlight on the work of social workers of late. While I don’t doubt the good intentions of the social worker in question, I do wonder if an over reliance on frameworks and an overly fixed mindset has produced a rather unfair and inaccurate result.

Based on an article with regards to how a family who spends $500 a month on cable and cigarettes could still want aid, I wonder if the current mold of thinking is too outdated and judgmental.

Yes, of course, I am not advocating that people should demand aid in order to live in the lap of luxury but in our modern day and age, is cable really considered such a luxury?

Look at the prices of activities and going out in Singapore. If you had a low income, these outings may never be something you can enjoy. What then can you do for entertainment or downtime other than watch TV? Unless the article by Dr Sudha Nair is implying that because you are poor and need aid, you don’t deserve to have an outlet?

Also, while I don’t promote smoking, I do understand the problems of addiction. For some people, it really is almost impossible to quit and as such, we should not use that as a barrier to aid.

Also, has it ever occurred in the social worker’s mind that perhaps life is so terrible for the potential claimant that smoking is a coping mechanism? The thing about life and its problems is that more often than not, it is more nuanced than black or white and these nuances need to be taken holistically before a decision is made whether or not to grant aid.

Perhaps our existing frameworks need to be widened to take into consideration the actual lives and struggles of those who need aid rather than impose what we feel they ought to do?

As Dr Ng Kok Hoe very rightly put, social workers need to tackle structural problems that lead to poverty. By judging a low income family that buys cigarettes is really too simplistic. Has it ever occurred to Dr Nair that the TV might be the only way to keep kids quiet so the parents can rest before going out to work again? I am not suggesting that that is the best way to parent but sometimes, when a parent is tired and stressed, it is just the easiest thing to do. We don’t all have the luxury of a domestic helper or pliant children.

Prof Teo Yeo Yenn also notes in her insightful book on social welfare in Singapore, “This is what inequality looks like“, that television is not a luxury in modern Singapore. And that it plays important roles in the everyday lives of low-income persons, more so than those with higher incomes. As Singapore is an expensive country, going out involves money, whether is it children asking to buy things, buying food and drinks or paying for transportation. While being at the home without toys and games is boring and with little resources to partake in other hobbies, television becomes an important entertainment in a low-income household.

There is more than one way of assessing whether a family needs aid and our application of frameworks need to take this into account. Self righteousness has never helped anyone.


by Ghui



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4 Responses to “Less judgment and more focus on how we can help is needed”

  • Gan Loong Ching:

    You know a country has a sick gahmen when all they think about is citizens trying to bluff and cheat them of some welfare money. It’s not as if our gahmen hand out big sums of money to the needy anyway.

    A gahmen with a heart would first and foremost think of how they can help every poor when they come across one even when they’re not being approached to help, instead of being so cautious, so scared people are trying to con them of some money all the time.

    Anyway, how much and for how long can a family con the gahmen? Don’t tell me gahmen is so stupid, don’t know how to keep track of how that family live? If really a family is dishonest, give once no more next time lah! How much lost was there?

    Only a greedy gahmen in trying to keep the as much money for themselves as possible would always give excuses and turn down as many requests for help as possible.

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  • HarderTruths:

    One of the biggest lies is ‘means testing’. An individual is not tested. His or her whole family must show not to be able to support him/her before he/she gets government assistance.

    No one should have to be tested against anyone else. All this family help and filial piety bullshit from pappies just to keep from paying what we are entitled to as individuals and citizens.

    Furthermore the same applies to all other areas of help. The same means testing using the same household earnings for school fees, health, nursing home etc.etc.

    Basically recounting the same earnings for each financial service. This is why $G will never be able to have their own population when the old will die off quickly the adults cannot support a family and there will be no young to replace them.

    Not that it matters in the end anyway….

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  • rukidding:

    Everybody “thinks” that digital TV is Good ?

    Can internet of things, clearer pics,….

    Now can win prizes and free installation for D/A converter or even $100 rebate for a New set ??


    Ever wonder ? and prepare yourself for “higher charges” ???

    Or see “repeat whole day programme like CNA” ???

    Maybe even “privacy invasion” via your “Camera installed digital TV” ???

    NO competition mah ?….everything is still under one “media cock” mah !

    Whether its “Channel you”, ” Chn 5 or Chn 8″…still same, same “Media cock” !

    Wonder who is really behind “MEeS Group” ???

    Got theater ?, Logistic and even Hostel business ???

    Ma Chiam …”pow ka Liow” ????

    Maybe F1 and Kim mmit also “Pow jiak” ???

    $$$$$ made “ownself keep within own gang”,…

    $$$$ spent by “G” ….dunno if “G” got take effort to ” gain” back ??

    Who are the people really behind MEeS Group ?

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  • clown pap and S$m gang:

    this is how pap Ljs and pap Cbs speak,

    we need to be paid S$m to maintain our standard of living, while for the local born poor it is a matter of S$1 more or less for foodcourt or hawker centre or instant noodles.

    this is how they speak. this is how they pay each other S$m. this is how they run government for welfare of local born poor.

    70% sheep truly WTF.

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