Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Sunday November 19th 2017

Family of five plunges into crisis when breadwinner father has stroke and can’t work

Since we launch the Poor People’s Campaign about a year ago, we have receive several requests for assistance from families whose breadwinner can’t work due to various reasons but usually its because the person has suffered a ailment suddenly causing untold distress on the whole family as the regular income is being restricted.

I visited Mr Omar recently at his 4-room flat at Simei – it is beautifully renovated and there is the homely feeling once you enter the household.

There are seven people there waiting for me as I arrived and I was slightly taken aback at the rousing reception – there are the family’s own three members (husband/wife and daughter), three nephews/niece and a brother-in-law who rushed down to attend the family’s emergency meeting. Another two daughters are out schooling with one taking her O level.

Particularly worried is the wife who held a stack of bills in a plastic holder and trying her best not to fret under the circumstances.

Her 53-year-old husband works as a cabbie before and everything went well for the family till he suffers a stroke few months ago. Though physically he could walk reasonably well now after going through physiotherapy, cognitively it affects his ability to see and react well like before.

He could hardly speaks now and need to go for speech therapy lessons as well.

The family agrees with me that he may never get to drive let alone works as a cabbie again.

I remembered how my own cabbie father had cancer when I was barely 21 years old and he passed away after two years of battling with the disease. I was fortunate that my basic income then was able to maintain the household expenses and I also have to take on the breadwinner’s role pretty early in life.

There were days that I wanted to go out and party like my 20-something-year-old friends but I held back as every dollar counts back then.

I can thus empathsize with the anxious family as there is no unemployment benefit here if one suddenly can’t work due to health reason – everything is at a standstill though the bills will still keep coming in regardless of your situation.

Its nightmarish for any family whose breadwinner suddenly could not work anymore and I really wish that the government can think of something to assist such families caught in a situation that they could not control.

We begin to explore ways on how to get around the system but all of us agreed that the family may need to sell the house ultimately as the mortgage of $500 plus will keep snowballing till it reaches a unreasonable amount for HDB to threaten repossession.

The wife must also take up some upgrading skills to stay employable again as her husband may or may not recover well enough to work again like before.

I pored through their HDB mortgage default bill and saw that they were three months behind in their repayment and HDB has graciously agreed to allow the family to pay the backlog in instalment on top of the monthly repayment.

They need to pay a total of close to $800 each month for the next three months minus the $100 allowable to offset from the CPF Special Account under extraordinary circumstances. As a cabbie, the husband has always pay the mortgage in cash faithfully each month but this time round everything is in a chaos.

They have three kids – all girls and two are in a popular school known for taking in students with extremely good result.

“The girls are chalking up very good result,” Mdm Aziza reminded me. “But they are affected by what happen to their father.”

When your father contracts stroke and it affects the surviveability of the household there is this natural tendency to worry how one can make ends meet. Will they lose their home? Will they have their water supply curtailed if they don’t pay on time or their power cut off? Do they have the same educational opportunity as their peers who are in a better situation than them? Will they have to work as teenagers to make ends meet?

The older ones understandably want to work part-time so that they can lighten the load of the current situation.

I left the family after an hour of visit with a heavy heart as even if we can help them to alleviate part of the payment default it is just a temporal relief.

The days ahead are dark while each month flies by quickly and the bills will keep piling up regardless whether the person is sick or not. Bills don’t wait and the consequences can be harsh.

Chances are they will need to sell their 4-room beloved home soon and Mdm Aziza looks at me with watery eyes when I related the hard truth to her. There is no way that they can hold on to their flat even though the amount is only $500 plus in monthly mortgage.

They are seriously looking at the option now when their eldest daughter finishes her O level exam soon.

I have attached the Singapore Power and HDB repayment bills for your generous consideration and I remembered vividly what the nephew who messaged me for help told me before I left: “Its ok if you can’t help us Gilbert but your visit has lifted us up alot…its shows that humanity is alive among us! My aunt looks more cheerful now with your visit! She was like in a depressed mood all along.”

Written by: Gilbert Goh

Editor’s note: If you want to assist the family do look out for the account number on the respective bills and pay for them directly through the AXS machine or online – the more important ones are the SP and HDB mortgage bills.

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3 Responses to “Family of five plunges into crisis when breadwinner father has stroke and can’t work”

  1. william says:

    selling hdb is NOT the best option, as the costs to sell and buy is quite big.

    getting gov assistance and school subsidies with some crowd funding is more feasible. can also claim eldershield insurance.

  2. Tan says:

    Do they qualify for silver support scheme?

  3. Richard says:

    Family planning will prevent tragedies like this from happening in future. Let this sad scenario be a mirror to the young generation.

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