Singapore, 22 December 2011 - The Straits Times (ST) School Pocket Money Fund (SPMF) begins life anew from January 1, 2012, as a charity with its own Institution of a Public Character (IPC) status.
The SPMF, which started as a community project of Singapore's leading English language daily on October 1, 2000, will be led by a board of trustees chaired by ST Editor, Mr Han Fook Kwang. The five-member Board, along with General Manager Ms Martina Wong, will advance the SPMF vision to "Give Every Child A Promising Future".
The trust deed was signed on October 20, 2011. Other trustees are:
- Treasurer Mr Gerard Ee, Chairman of Council for Third Age
- Secretary Ms Bertha Henson, ST associate editor
- Board member Mr Sia Cheong Yew, a media consultant, and
- Board member Mr Han Jok Kwang, Chief Information Officer of Venture Corporation Ltd
(See Appendix A for bio data of Trustees, Appendix B for bio data of General Manager)
The new arrangements will align the SPMF with other charities in Singapore. Under the current model, SPMF is administered by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), which maintains and disburses the donated funds to its network of Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) helping the beneficiaries. Tax-deductible receipts are issued in the name of NCSS, which also handles accounting and financial processes required by the Charities Act. Its network of VWOs, including Family Service Centres
(FSCs), is the main interface between the fund and beneficiary.
Said Mr Han: "After more than 10 years, we are fully capable of standing on our two feet to be a full-fledged charity in our own right. NCSS will still be heavily involved but the buck will stop with the board."
The SPMF's primary objective remains unchanged. It will focus on the collection and disbursement of pocket money to needy school-going children. All money collected up to the end of this year will be used for the expressed purpose of giving out pocket money to beneficiaries. Primary school pupils receive $55 a month and secondary school students receive $90 a month.
Since 2000, the SPMF has raised nearly $44million and helped more than 85,000 needy cases from low-income homes. The cases of students who have received assistance from the SPMF this year is more than 8,700. Total donations to the fund have hit $5.89million as of end November. Next year, the projected number of students SPMF will support is estimated at more than 9,500.
The NCSS disburses the funds through its network of 38 FSCs, two agencies providing single parent family services, 18 Special Schools/
disability VWOs, six Children's Homes and the Assumption Pathway School.
Trustees have decided that, given the success of the fund which has gained traction with donors big and small over the years, the SPMF could add to its mission of helping needy school children by incorporating a secondary objective of aiding their social and educational development.
With the broadened scope, the fund's vision is "Give every child a promising future".
Its mission: To reach out to every child in need and provide them with the resources to do well in school - and beyond.
Its objects: To give financial support to children and youth in need to pay for school-related expenses, and to support social and educational development of children and youth in Singapore.
Said Mr Han: “The SPMF has been one of the most successful projects undertaken by The Straits Times, and for this we are very grateful to all our generous donors and supporters. But we want to do more than just provide pocket money for needy students. With the expanded objectives, we hope to start other projects. Some of the ideas we're working on include helping children with English lessons, and starting a data-base of volunteers, who want to spend time coaching or mentoring the students.” (See Appendix C
for description of SPMF signature programme)
The SPMF kitty now stands at $19 million. Trustees have decided that the SPMF will maintain at least two years' worth of disbursements and running expenses to meet its obligations to beneficiaries.
Said Mr Ee: “We shall raise funds according to our projected needs. We will monitor changing needs and plan our fund-raising in line with those needs. We shall manage our costs so that the bulk of the funds go towards supporting the beneficiaries. Our reserves will be maintained at a level sufficient to ensure continuity of support for the beneficiaries even when fund raising gets difficult.”
Ms Henson said that work on converting SPMF into an independent charity began a year ago. She thanked NCSS for hand-holding SPMF through the paperwork and connecting it with vendors and other agencies.
"We will keep running costs low and pay out only what we have to. Our accounts will be transparent to all,'' she added. Currently NCSS charges a nominal administrative fee, while a token sum also goes to FSCs to process new applications and to carry out checks on families to ensure the money is properly used. This will continue under the new terms and the administrative costs will continue to be kept within a low cap of 10 per cent of the annual funds disbursed.
Ms Tina Hung, Deputy CEO of NCSS said: “NCSS supports the registration of SPMF as an IPC status. This is timely because it has established itself as a social brand that reaches out to families with children. As we are facing a more challenging year ahead in 2012, we will work closely with SPMF Trustees to assist more students to remain in school, and achieve their goals in life. More importantly, we want to be responsive to the challenges and needs of families who require help.”
On her role as General Manager of SPMF, Ms Wong, the former CEO of Merrill Lynch Singapore, said: "Transitioning from the financial sector into SPMF is both exciting and fulfilling. There is so much we can do to nurture the children and youth beyond providing financial support."
Issued by The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (UEN: T11CC0007D)
For more information, please contact:
Ms Martina Wong
The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund
DID: 6319 2050
About The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund
The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, which started as acommunity project initiated by The Straits Times on October 1, 2000.
provides pocket money to children and youth in need to help them through school. The children can use this money for school-related expenses, such as buying a meal during recess, paying for their bus fares or using it to meet other schooling needs.
The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund works closely with the National Council of Social Services (NCSS), its administrator for pocket money and strategic partner. The NCSS disburses the pocket money to needy students through its network of family service centres, special schools and children’s homes.
The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund also seeks to help children and youth in their social and educational development.