SINGAPORE – From next year, more needy families will benefit from The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (STSPMF) when it raises its existing limit for assistance.

The fund, which helps support students from low-income families, will raise the gross monthly per-capita income ceiling from $625 to $690 a person a month.

With this move, about 1,000 more families will be able to benefit from the fund.

The changes will kick in next year to celebrate STSPMF’s 20th anniversary, said Mr Warren Fernandez, chairman of The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, on Friday (Sept 27).

He said during the fund’s Annual Appreciation Day held at the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) News Centre’s auditorium in Toa Payoh: “These efforts are all focused on doing as much as we can to support those who turn to us for help.”

Mr Fernandez is also The Straits Times editor and editor-in-chief of SPH’s English, Malay and Tamil Media Group.

Since the fund started on Children’s Day on Oct 1, 2000, it has disbursed about $70 million and helped more than 170,000 students from low-income families.

The fund last raised its monthly per-capita income ceiling in 2016, from $560 to $625.

Other organisations that have in recent years increased its limit for assistance by raising its income ceiling include the Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda) Bursary, Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) Bursary and Ministry of Education’s Financial Assistance Scheme.

From next year, the fund will also provide extended support to more disadvantaged families with complex needs.

Currently, needy children receive financial assistance for up to 24 months.

But for families with more complex needs, the fund allows social service agencies to extend support to disadvantaged families for up to 48 months.

These difficulties include situations where family members suffer from illnesses, or families with single parents.

Currently, up to 20 per cent of cases may receive support for the extended duration.

From 2020, up to 30 per cent of families can receive the extended duration of help from agencies.

Mr Fernandez said this will enable case workers to use the fund as a mechanism to provide longer support and offer the necessary assistance to these families.

Ms Sara Tan, executive director of Hougang Sheng Hong Family Service Centre, said the strengthened support will go a long way in helping needy families.

“With the raised income ceiling, now more families will qualify for help. Complex issues that can take longer to resolve will also now get more resources. It truly helps those in need,” she said.

The centre is one of the agencies that the fund works with to reach out to needy students and families.

The Annual Appreciation Day also saw a donation of $500,000 to the fund by Mini Environment Service Group founder and chief executive Mohamed Abdul Jaleel.

Mr Jaleel, a long-time supporter of the fund, has donated about $3.5 million to it since 2010.

Mr Fernandez, in thanking donors and sponsors, said: “Through your efforts we have helped shape the lives of many children and their families in a very simple but direct and critical way – ensuring that they don’t go to school with nothing in their pockets, going hungry, unable to focus on their studies and feeling left out of school activities enjoyed by their friends.”