Silver Support Scheme Bill, Second Reading Speech
Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower, Parliament
- Madam Speaker, I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
- Madam Speaker, Prime Minister Lee introduced the Silver Support Scheme in August 2014 during the National Day Rally. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance subsequently provided more details of the Scheme in this year's Budget Speech. Together with Workfare, Silver Support will be a permanent feature that forms the fourth pillar of our social security system, complementing the other three pillars of home ownership, the CPF system, and healthcare assurance.
- The Silver Support Scheme aims to mitigate inequalities by supplementing incomes for the bottom 20-30% of elderly Singaporeans, who have lesser means, in their retirement years. Those who qualify for the Scheme will automatically receive a quarterly cash supplement of between $300 and $750.
- Since its announcement last year, the Ministry of Manpower has been working closely with the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board and other partner agencies to prepare for the implementation of the Silver Support Scheme in 2016. The purpose of the Bill is to set out the legislative framework and powers necessary for the implementation and administration of the Scheme.
Key Features of the Bill
- Madam Speaker, I shall now highlight the main features of the Bill.
- First, Clause 5 provides for the establishment of the Silver Support Scheme. The Scheme will be administered by the CPF Board on behalf of the Government. As the Scheme's administrator, CPF Board's duties will include developing the necessary systems to automatically assess an elderly person's eligibility for Silver Support and to make payments to the eligible recipients.
- Clause 4 allows the Minister to appoint a Commissioner for Silver Support to oversee the proper implementation of the Scheme. The Commissioner's role will also include determining how one can opt out of Silver Support means-testing, and reviewing appeal cases.
- Clause 6 specifies that the Silver Support Scheme will cover Singaporeans aged 65 and above, who meet the eligibility criteria, for as long as they require it given their financial circumstances. As mentioned by DPM Tharman in his Budget speech this year, we will consider several factors, such as lifetime wages, the level of household support and housing type, in order to determine a person's eligibility for Silver Support. The detailed eligibility criteria and other implementation details will be announced closer to the implementation date.
Access to Information
- Part 3 of the Bill sets out provisions for the Commissioner and CPF Board to access and use personal and means information from government databases for the purpose of administering the Silver Support Scheme. The information required includes basic administrative information such as residential addresses, as well as financial data such as household income. This access to personal information will enable CPF Board to automatically assess an individual for Silver Support without requiring him to come forward to apply.
- I would like to assure Members that the Bill puts in place stringent safeguards to protect the personal information from unintended or inappropriate use.
- First, only persons authorized by the Minister for Manpower may access an individual's personal information for the purpose of administering the Silver Support Scheme. Clause 9 makes it an offence for any person to access, use or disclose such information without proper authorization. Offenders will face up to a $5,000 fine or 12 months' imprisonment or both.
- Second, the Bill provides for Singaporeans who do not want CPF Board to access their means information from existing government databases, the right to opt-out of the provision of such information. We will also respect any decision made by an individual not to forward share his personal information that resides in existing government databases with other agencies, including the CPF Board. Opting out would mean that such individuals will not be automatically assessed for Silver Support benefits. However, if they subsequently change their mind, they can come forward at any time to provide their personal information in order to be assessed for Silver Support.
- Finally, Part 4 of the Bill provides for the enforcement of the Bill. It will be an offence for anyone who provides false information in order to obtain Silver Support Benefits, or receive a higher quantum than what he is eligible for. It will also be an offence to obstruct an authorized investigator in his investigation of possible false declarations. Furthermore, CPF Board will be empowered to recover any overpaid Silver Support benefits.
- Madam Speaker, let me conclude. Silver Support is a landmark scheme that helps to mitigate inequalities among our elderly Singaporeans. We will need to put in place systems so that the approximately 150,000 elderly Singaporeans who stand to benefit from the Scheme, are able to receive their Silver Support payments smoothly in 2016. This Bill paves the way for the Government to do so, by putting in place the necessary laws for the administration and implementation of the Scheme.
- Madam Speaker, I beg to move.