Former Bukit Assek rep urges S’wak govt to review social welfare criteria to ensure support for vulnerable citizens

Irene Mary Chang Oi Ling

KUCHING, Sept 26: Former Bukit Assek assemblywoman Irene Chang has urged the Sarawak government to urgently look into reviewing and revising social welfare criteria to ensure that the most vulnerable and deserving members of society receive the vital support and assistance they require.

Referring to the case of a former media practitioner Edwin Jemat Nangkai not receiving any welfare assistance from the Sarawak government as he is a pensioner, Chang said this should be a wake-up call for Sarawak government to urgently review whether the existing criteria applied by the Social Welfare Department lives up to its purpose of helping people in financial need.

“I am not surprised that his (Edwin) application was rejected as he is a pensioner. From my experience, as long as an applicant has a source of financial aid from somewhere, the application is often disqualified.

“It would not matter how meagre is the financial aid and whether that financial aid is sufficient for the needs of the applicant,” she pointed out in a statement today.

From her experience, Chang, who is also Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sarawak political education director, shared that as long as the applicant has a living child who is an adult and gainfully employed, the application for social assistance would likely be not successful.

Acknowledging the responsibility children have in caring for their ageing parents, she however lamented the unfortunate reality that many are unable to fulfill this duty.

In Sibu, she highlighted, a significant number of young individuals are forced to seek livelihoods elsewhere, making it challenging for them to regularly support their elderly parents back home as they themselves are barely making ends meet.

“Hence, their old parents are left to fend for themselves. They look to the social welfare (authorities) for help but dismally, not all can be successful,” she said.

Chang suggested that the review and revision process should be conducted periodically to ensure the Social Welfare Department can effectively address the evolving needs of the population.

She stressed the importance of flexibility in determining eligibility, taking into account factors such as income, family size, disability, and relevant circumstances specific to each applicant.

She asserted that the eligibility criteria should be adaptable during times of crisis, always guided by the principle of enhancing the well-being of society’s most vulnerable, particularly the elderly and the lower-income group (B40).

“It should also be conducted with empathy and a commitment to ensure that those in need receive the support and assistance they require.

“There is no point for the Sarawak government’s Post-Covid Development Strategy (PCDS) 2030 to meet its target to make Sarawak a high-income State by 2030 if the high income status does not commensurate with the living standards of all its population groups, including its most vulnerable groups. No one should be left behind,” she stressed. — DayakDaily