The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (SPMF) will be extending its help to more students from next year. It is earmarking up to $1.5 million to provide pocket money to needy students who are progressing from secondary schools to the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), Junior Colleges (JCs) and Polytechnics.
This expansion of fund is a major commitment by SPMF to help these students continue their post-secondary education. At present, the fund is restricted to only primary and secondary school students. Feedback from social workers who help assess these needy cases is that many continue to require financial assistance when they graduate to ITE, JCs and Polytechnics. Their needs are as pressing as those in primary and secondary schools, and many struggle to meet basic needs such as daily pocket money for bus and MRT fares and to buy food during breaks.
From 1 January 2013, eligible students in these post-secondary educational institutions will receive $120 a month. The scheme will start with existing and past SPMF beneficiaries or siblings of existing beneficiaries who move on to post-secondary institutions, and who continue to require financial assistance. This initiative was announced at the SPMF's annual briefing to the Fund's disbursing agencies and social workers at the Singapore Press Holding's auditorium on 22 October 2012.
Announcing the new scheme, Mr Han Fook Kwang, Chairman, SPMF, said: "Our studies have shown that the money we provide have help students focus better in school. The less they worry about where the next meal is going to come from, the more they can concentrate on their education. We've helped tens of thousands in primary and secondary schools and we now want to extend it to students in post-secondary institutions."
Ms Tina Hung, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), said: "Education is crucial in helping children get out of the poverty cycle. The pilot phase will focus on providing continued support to youths from low-income families, to enable them to complete their education successfully. This also provides another avenue for social workers to work with families with complex needs and extend further assistance to help them gain confidence and grow in stability and self-reliance. At the same time, I want to thank the family service centres and voluntary welfare organisations, especially the social workers and staff who have worked hard to assess and disburse the SPMF over the past 11 years to help the needy students to complete their education successfully."
Welcoming the extension of the fund, Mr Peter Chang, Executive Director of Pasir Ris FSC, one of the disbursing agencies, added: "This extension is extremely timely and on target. We have a few students whose post-secondary education might have to be terminated as their parents are unable to support their expenses. It would be a pity if they have to stop their education to go out to work to help with household expenses."
Mdm Lim, who has a son in Polytechnic Year 1, and a daughter who is likely to go to ITE next year, is delighted with this news. The family has downgraded from a 4-room flat to a rental unit to clear the medical bills and loans. She said: "The extra funds will help ease the financial burden of the family especially when I am on a long-term medical treatment."
The SPMF started as a community project by The Straits Times in 2000 and has since raised $52m and helped over 94,000 needy cases.
Primary school pupils currently receive $55 a month and secondary school students $90 per month from the Fund. With the extension to post-secondary students, the SPMF expects to raise about $8.5m in 2013. As at end of June 2012, the number of primary and secondary school students who are receiving monthly school pocket money from SPMF has increased to 8,880. This is a 28% jump compared to 6,946 in March this year.
On the need to raise more money for the Fund, Ms Martina Wong, SPMF General Manager, said: "We will need to raise at least $8.5 million a year to fund our expanded scheme. But I'm confident our donors will respond generously. We have been receiving tremendous support from corporations and individuals throughout the 12 years of the Fund and their commitment to this worthy cause has motivated us to work even harder."
She added: "One area we want to do better is to have more donors contribute monthly through Giro. We now have about 300 who donate between $1 and $500 monthly. We hope to increase this number so that we can have a more regular stream of donations."
The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund
The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (SPMF) started in October 2000 as a community project initiated by The Straits Times to provide pocket money to children from low-income families to help them through school. The children can use this money for school-related expenses, such as buying a meal during recess, paying for their bus fares or using it to meet other schooling needs.
SPMF received its charity status in November 2011 and has been granted an Institution of A Public Character since January 2012. Governed by a board of trustees, its mission is to reach out to every child in need and provide them with the resources to do well in school - and beyond. Funds raised go towards school pocket money disbursements and support of the social and educational development of children and youth.
SPMF works closely with the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) as its strategic partner. The NCSS disburses the pocket money to needy students through its network of family service centres, special schools and children's homes. Since the project inception in 2000, SPMF has raised over $52 million and helped over 94,000 cases of needy children. Funds raised go towards providing school pocket money to an average of 10,000 children and youth each year, and for the support of their social and educational development.
In March 2012, SPMF launched STEP-UP, a coaching programme to boost the English skills and current affairs knowledge of Primary 5 and 6 beneficiaries.
To apply to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, please call the ComCare helpline at 1800-222-0000. If you wish to donate, please call 6319 2121 or visit SPMF website.
For more information: www.stschoolpocketmoneyfund.org.sg
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 FY2011, $241 million was disbursed to 536 programmes in the social service sector.