This is a common term that caregivers and persons with disabilities will come across when applying for social supports, be they assistance schemes, subsidies, care services etc.
A means-test is simply a way to determine the amount of subsidy a person will receive from using social supports. Please be aware that:
- Different means-tests are used in different schemes/ services
- Even if the same means-test is used, depending on the scheme/ service, you could end up with different subsidy levels – or no subsidy, if your means-tested income exceed the income ceiling set by the scheme/ service
Household Income (HHI) is one form of means-test. Per Capita Income (PCI) is another - PCI is computed by dividing the gross household income by the number of members in the household.
Means-test results are also valid for a period of time so you do not necessarily need to do a new means-test with each application for a scheme or service.
Subsidies for infant and child care
All parents with Singapore Citizen children enrolled in child care centres licensed by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) are eligible for subsidies.
The Basic Subsidy, which is not means-tested, is extended to everyone. There is also the Additional Subsidy, which is means-tested and applicable only to mothers or single fathers working 56 hours or more per month. The subsidy calculator helps you to compute your subsidy eligibility. More information can be found in ECDA's website.
In addition, low-income families can apply for ComCare Child Care Subsidies for further assistance.
- The child needs to be a Singapore Citizen and placed in “affordable” child care centres
- Both parents should be working at least 56 hours per month, or produce valid reasons for not working. These include: certified as a full-time caregiver for a dependent, medical leave, looking for work, incarcerated
Eligible families can approach the respective child care centre for information and application.
All government-funded centres that offer the Early Intervention Programme for Infants & Children (EIPIC) have subsidy schemes in place to help families defray EIPIC fees. There is also another subsidy scheme, Enhanced Pilot for Private Intervention Providers (PPIP), for parents with children enrolled in selected private intervention centres (PICs). Both EIPIC and PPIP subsides are means-tested.
Information on EIPIC fees payable after means testing can be found below:
Information on PPIP fees payable after means testing:
Singaporeans may also tap the government's Baby Bonus scheme, to offset EIPIC and PPIP fees.
Subsidies for kindergarten fees
ComCare Kindergarten Subsidies – also known as the Kindergarten Financial Assistance Scheme (KiFAS) – provide means-tested fee assistance to families with Singapore Citizen children attending kindergarten, nursery or pre-nursery (K2, K1, N or pre-N) programmes run by Anchor Operators or the Ministry of Education.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) as well as individual mainstream and Special Education (SPED) schools provide various forms of financial assistance to their students. These range from cash grants to assistance in kind, such as free textbooks.
SPED Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS)
Singapore Citizens from low-income families attending SPED schools may be eligible for SPED FAS, which is provided by MOE and National Council of Social Service.
This scheme is means-tested. Among other things, eligible students get a full waiver of school fees, free textbooks and free school attire. To apply, please approach the child’s SPED school directly.
Financial Assistance from SPED schools
Individual SPED schools also offer their own forms of financial assistance to students. For example, all MOE-funded SPED schools are given a grant for Discretionary Financial Assistance (DFA), to be given out by the school. Caregivers may wish to ask their respective SPED school.
There are various financial assistance schemes by MOE, depending on the school type – government and government-aided schools, independent schools, institutes of higher learning (IHLs). The schemes are means-tested unless indicated otherwise:
Individual schools may also have their own financial assistance schemes. You may wish to approach your school for more information.
Other sources of financial support
PSEA is an account maintained by the government for Singapore Citizens, to help parents save for their child’s post-secondary education. It is administered by MOE and is opened automatically for all eligible Singaporeans.
A PSEA account holder can use his PSEA funds to pay for his own or his siblings' (where applicable) fees and charges for approved programmes at:
- Autonomous universities, polytechnics and arts institutions (LASALLE College of the Arts and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts)
- Public and private training providers
- Government-supported SPED schools
- SG Enable
For more information on using PSEA funds, see below:
SFSA is a $5,000 award for early to mid-career Singaporeans to go for courses that deepen their skills, or acquire complementary skills needed to grow in their jobs. It can be used on top of existing government course fee subsidies.
There are currently over 40 categories of SFSA, administered by different agencies, which are open to the general public. In addition, SG Enable administers SFSA for Persons with Disabilities, a dedicated award to help persons with disabilities enhance their employability. Supported courses include local and overseas executive courses, as well as Bachelor, Master and Specialist Diploma programmes.
Money may not be the only or even the most important reason for working, but employment certainly brings with it an income. For help in getting a job, persons with disabilities can refer to SG Enable.
Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions
Under the CPF Act, employers must contribute CPF if their employees earn more than $50 a month, regardless of whether the employee is working on a permanent, part-time, contract or casual basis.
This applies to employees with disabilities as well. However, persons with disabilities enrolled in sheltered workshops are not considered ‘employees’ and therefore not covered by the CPF Act.
If an employer is not contributing CPF, employees can inform CPF Board by visiting any CPF Service Centre or calling 1800-221-9922.
WIS supplements the income of low-wage earners
Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme
who are Singapore Citizens and currently employed. The government gives employees with disabilities
$1,500 to $3,600 a year in CPF contributions and cash. The employee does not need to apply for WIS as CPF Board will automatically assesses an individual’s eligibility based on CPF contributions, and make the necessary payments.
Persons with disabilities who are self-employed are also eligible if they meet the required criteria.
Like any other employee, persons with disabilities can benefit from training to enhance their job prospects and upgrade their skills.
SG Enable subsidises training providers to develop and conduct work-related courses customised to persons with disabilities, to keep fees low for trainees. In addition, trainees may also be able to use SkillsFuture Credits and/ or Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA) to pay for the courses.
In addition to paying for education at publicly-funded post-secondary institutions, PSEA funds can also be used to offset fees for training courses supported by SG Enable
as well as selected courses from public agencies and private training providers (check the SkillsFuture directory
and type ‘PSEA’ when searching for courses).
For more information on using PSEA funds, see below:
As of Jan 2016, all Singapore Citizens aged 25 and above will receive $500 of SkillsFuture Credits. It can be used to defray out-of-pocket course fees for approved courses These include courses customised for persons with disabilities supported by SG Enable. The credits do not expire and the government will provide periodic top-ups.
Responses to frequently asked questions on SkillsFuture Credits can be found below:
WTS provides 95% funding for course fees for selected courses leading to a formal qualification/ certificate. To qualify, a person with disabilities should be:
- A Singapore Citizen age 13 years and above, and
- A low-wage earner, and
- Signed up for any WTS qualifying courses, i.e.
- Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) courses
- Part-time ITE Skills Certificate, NITEC and Higher NITEC courses
- Standalone skills-based modular courses, as well as various part-time diploma programmes offered by polytechnics
- Certifiable skills training courses accredited by SkillsFuture Singapore
Persons with disabilities can also tap community funding to cover the cost of training. For example, among other things, the Mediacorp Enable Fund (MEF) funds the aspirations of persons with disabilities that are beyond their families’ financial means. This includes supporting them with course fees and other expenses related to their training.
A person with disabilities employing a foreign domestic worker (FDW), or a person employing an FDW to look after a young child or elderly person, may be eligible to pay a concessionary rate of $60 a month for the FDW Levy, instead of $265. FDWLC is not means-tested.
There are three schemes:
- Young child or grandchild scheme (for care recipients aged below 16)
- Aged person scheme (for care recipients aged 65 and above)
- Persons with disabilities scheme
- The care recipient must be a Singapore Citizen (with exceptions under the Aged Person Scheme)
- The care recipient must be the employer of the FDW OR a relative of the employer
- Where the care recipient is the employer’s relative, he must live at the same address as the employer
A “relative” refers to a spouse, child/ child-in-law, grandchild/ grandchild-in-law, sibling/ sibling-in-law, parent/ parent-in-law, grandparent/ grandparent-in-law.
The Young Child Or Grandchild Scheme and the Aged Person Scheme support care recipients regardless of whether they have a disability or not.
For the former, Ministry of Manpower will grant the concession automatically if the eligibility criteria are met. For the latter, the concession is granted automatically if the employer submitted all the relevant information in his FDW employment application.
The Persons with Disabilities Scheme, as its name suggests, is dedicated to persons with disabilities. Subject to the general criteria, a person with disabilities can apply for this scheme if he employs an FDW; a person can also apply if he is employing an FDW to look after a relative with disabilities.
There is no age criterion. But the care recipient has to be assessed for functional needs, so the Young Child or Grandchild and Aged Person Schemes are more convenient options if the care recipient meets the respective age criteria.
For this scheme, the care recipient needs to be certified by a qualified assessor as being permanently unable to perform at least one activity of daily living (ADL) i.e. eating, bathing, dressing, transferring, toileting, and walking or moving around. Persons with ASD or ID can also choose to be assessed using the Client Assessment Form (CAF).
The scheme is administered by Agency for Integrated Care (AIC). More information on eligibility and application are found below:
This grant is a $120 monthly cash payout to families employing an FDW to look after a family member with disabilities. It is means-tested – households with no income are assessed on the annual value of their property. As long as eligibility conditions are met, employers can receive both FDWG and FDWLC.
In general, the care recipient:
- Needs to be a Singapore Citizen or an elderly PR
- Needs permanent assistance with 3 or more Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
- Must be the employer of the FDW OR a relative of the employer
- If the latter, he/ she must live at the same address as the employer
- A relative is: a spouse, child/ child-in-law, grandchild /grandchild-in-law, sibling/ sibling-in-law, parent/ parent-in-law, grandparent/ grandparent-in-law
FDWG is administered by Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) – more information on FDWG can be found here.
The grant is a $200 annual subsidy that lets caregivers attend approved courses to better care for their loved ones. However, the subsidy is tied to the care recipient, i.e. if multiple caregivers of the same care recipient wish to attend the training, the subsidy will need to be shared among the caregivers.
Assistive Technology and IT
This programme offers means-tested subsidies to students (aged 25 and below) and persons with disabilities from low-income households buying a new computer.
- PC-Bundle Scheme: helps eligible applicants to own a new computer with free software and three years of free broadband subscription
- iNSPIRE Fund Scheme: offers financial assistance to those who cannot afford to co-pay for the computer applied under PC-Bundle Scheme
ATF is a means-tested subsidy that helps defray up to 90% of the cost of buying, replacing and repairing assistive technology (AT) devices used for education, employment, training and independent living. There is a lifetime cap of $40,000 for the subsidies. Both Singapore Citizens and PRs are eligible.
Applicants will need to be assessed by professionals e.g. therapists in hospitals and VWOs, who will also prescribe suitable devices and submit the application. ATF can be used to subsidise the costs of devices related to home modifications, such as grab bars and ramps, but not those related to vehicle modifications.
SMF is a means-tested subsidy for the purchase of AT devices and home healthcare items, for elderly Singapore citizens aged 60 and above, to support ageing in place. Assistive devices supported under SMF include walking sticks, wheelchairs, pressure relief cushions and commodes, as well as home healthcare products like milk supplements and adult diapers.
Special Education Needs (SEN) Fund
This fund by Ministry of Education (MOE) helps to defray the costs of buying MOE-approved AT devices or support services. Only Singaporean polytechnic and ITE students with physical or sensory impairment are eligible.
Publicly-funded universities and arts institutions such as Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) have their own SEN Funds. Students with disabilities can check with the school for more information.
The EASE programme subsidises the cost of home modification to make HDB apartments more senior friendly. Subsidies are computed based on the type of HDB flat e.g. 3-room, executive flat.
Flat owners who are Singapore Citizens qualify for EASE if a family member in the household is
- 65 years old and above; or
- 60 and 64 years old and requires assistance with at least 1 Activity of Daily Living (ADL)
Improvement items include slip resistance treatment for floor tiles, grab bars in toilets and single and multi-step ramps.
For more information pertaining to guardianship of children with disabilities, visit our Child & Adult Care page.
A burning issue with many caregivers is who will take care of their loved ones with disabilities when they are no longer around. Financial security is not all there is to it, but it is very important.
Trust funds can provide a steady income stream for persons with disabilities when their caregiver passes on. With a minimum sum of $5,000, caregivers can set up a trust fund through the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC), the only non-profit company with trust services for persons with disabilities. SNTC will help the caregiver work out how much money to set aside in a trust fund and how the funds will be disbursed upon the demise or incapacity of the caregiver. SNTC will act according to the caregiver’s wishes in disbursing the money. To find out how to set up a trust, see below:
SNTC also administers the Special Needs Saving Scheme, which enables parents of children with disabilities to set aside their CPF savings for the child’s long-term care. Under this scheme, parents can nominate the child as a beneficiary of their CPF monies when they pass on. The child will receive monthly payouts of an amount pre-determined by the parents until the savings are exhausted.
DPS is a term insurance that provides an insured member and his/ her family with up to $46,000 to get through the first few years should the insured member pass away, or suffer from a terminal Illness or total permanent disability before turning 60.
DPS is automatically extended to CPF members who are Singapore Citizens and PRs aged 21 – 60, who have made their first CPF contribution. The insured member can nominate who will receive the insurance benefits.
This free insurance scheme by NTUC Income aims to help lower-income families with young children in times of crisis. Under the scheme, when the parent/ guardian passes away or becomes totally and permanently disabled, the family is eligible for a $5,000 payout, subject to terms and conditions. NTUC Income also offers an additional payout capped at $5,000 that matches the collective bank balances of the parent/ guardian and his family unit.
- Parents/ guardians of a family receiving assistance from NTUC’s My First Skool or MOE Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) (Primary School) will be automatically covered under IFMISS
- The insured must be aged between 16 and 65 years old (age next birthday)
This basic health insurance plan protects all Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents against large hospital bills for life, regardless of age or health condition. Those with pre-existing and congenital conditions are covered as well. Premiums are paid from your MediSave account.
NTUC SpecialCare Insurance
This insurance plan by NTUC Income provides coverage for medical expenses due to accidents and infectious diseases. The policy holder must be a Singaporean or PR, and be a parent or legal guardian of a child diagnosed with Down Syndrome or Autism.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) provides various forms of financial assistance under the ComCare banner. The eligibility criteria and amount of financial help vary across the schemes; click the respective links for more information.
ComCare Short-to-Medium Term Assistance is generally for families that need financial help for a temporary period. The scheme caters to families with a monthly household income of $1,900 and below, or a per capita income of $650.
ComCare Long Term Assistance, also known as Public Assistance, is intended to help people who are permanently unable to work and need help to support themselves.
If financial assistance is needed urgently for less than three months, there is also the ComCare Interim Assistance Scheme.
To apply for any of the ComCare schemes, go to your nearest Social Service Office (SSO) to find out more. Officers there will assess your application to determine if you qualify.