Ethnic self-help groups still vital as they customise support for beneficiaries: PM Lee

SINGAPORE – Ethnic-based self-help groups such as the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) are still an important source of aid for low-income families as they are able to customise programmes most relevant to their beneficiaries.

Speaking at CDAC’s 30th Anniversary Open House on Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that from time to time, people ask why these ethnic groups, which also include Mendaki, Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda) and Eurasian Association, are still relevant to Singapore’s multiracial society.

PM Lee explained that while the Government provides assistance to low-income families regardless of ethnicity, these self-help groups – which are funded by the Government and community donations of 50 cents to $3 per worker each month – are able to provide additional support and address issues without raising racial or religious sensitivities.

These groups also provide a vehicle for more well-off Singaporeans to support members from their own communities, said PM Lee at CDAC’s headquarters in Tanjong Katong.

He added: “It is a very natural human impulse, and it strengthens the bonds between members of the community. It builds a sense of self-reliance and pride in the community, which complements their Singapore identity.”

Looking ahead, self-help groups such as CDAC, which benefits close to 18,000 households, will help with social mobility even as Singapore’s economy becomes more developed and economic growth is harder to come by, said PM Lee.

He was speaking as the guest of honour at the open house, which was also attended by Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung and other MPs.

About 650 members of the public attended the open house where activities like balloon sculpting, badge making and pebble painting were enjoyed by families despite the rain on Sunday morning.

CDAC, established in 1992, offers mentoring support, tuition programmes and financial aid to low-income families.

Last year, 17,700 households benefited from its programmes and support. This is down from 18,600 households in 2020 and a slight increase from the 17,000 in 2019.