On a typical day, Mr Edward Chan would leave home early in the morning to start his day as a Grab driver. After the peak hour, he would rush home to do home-based learning with his two girls, Yan Ling and Yan Yun.
Edward is a father of two girls with special needs. Despite his busy schedule, Edward is extremely hands on with his daughters, he walks them to school, and accompanies them for their home-based learning. “My elder daughter is autistic, she needs special attention from me. My wife and I came to a mutual agreement for me to leave my job in October 2018. My colleagues were persuading me to stay on for the year-end AWS, but I really needed the year end holidays to prepare my daughter for the next school year. It was a tough decision but definitely worth it. I could tell she was happy to have me walk her to school and spend more time with her,” Edward shares.
On Receiving and Giving
Edward is also an active volunteer with the parents support group (CASPER), Grassroots, SG Enable, and CaringSG, a caregiver-led initiative for special needs caregivers and the community. The COVID pandemic has triggered the need for a caregiver support program and for this reason, Project 3i/CaringSG was mooted and then concretised.
During the Circuit Breaker period, he also worked with one of the social enterprises in their special needs support group – Crunchy teeth. Crunchy Teeth is an initiative by Works of Hope. They hope to instill diverse job skills for low to mid functioning students, preparing them for stable employment. This CNY, they are offering CNY bakes, an initiative will help them move one step closer towards inclusive employment for the autistic community. Do support them in this initiative if you can!
When the pandemic hit, Crunchy Teeth went to Edward and asked him to help with delivery of their products. As the volume of orders went up in Phase 2, the team asked in their chat group to find out if other dads in their community would be keen to support the delivery. Two fathers joined in.
“Weren’t you worried that they would take over your deliveries?” He chuckled in answer, “We all need to support one another during tough times.”
Edward’s energy and his passion to help the people around him is inspiring. I was curious about his previous job.
“You wouldn’t believe it, I was an Internal Auditor,” Edward shared, laughing. In his previous job, Edward travelled a lot. His work required him to visit subsidiaries overseas. His work trips to Australia, UK and Ireland would take him away from his family for weeks on end and it was tough, because his elder girl would only talk to him.
For special needs children, video calls just don’t work the same. Without the personal touch, it was hard for me to get through to my daughters.
Hence, he made the decision to quit to become a Grab driver with more flexibility.
Timely Support for Freelancers and Self-employed Persons
“It must be tough when the pandemic hit?” I asked.
Definitely, when the Circuit Breaker hit and tourists stopped coming our earnings really dropped.
Like Edward, many taxi and private hire vehicle drivers have suffered from loss of income. The Government, National Trades Union Association, together with the taxi and PHC operators, and driver associations have wasted no time jumping into action to support affected drivers even back in February 2020. Their efforts have not stopped since!
Edward also received some support funds from the National Council of Social Service. The Temporary Relief Fund, a one-off cash grant of $500, was another assistance scheme that he was eligible for.
Similarly, the Self-employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) offered timely help for drivers like Edward. At the height of the pandemic, NTUC stepped into the role to help the Government administer appeals from those who are not auto-included so as to expedite the help to eligible SEPs.
Under SIRS, eligible self-employed individuals received $9,000 in 3 payouts: end-May, July and October. As his wife’s income exceeded the qualifying criteria, after appeal, Edward received a lower amount of $800 – which still went some way in relieving some of the family’s expenses.
The Days Ahead
To better support freelancers and self-employed persons like Edward, the NTUC U FSE and the National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA) have been working closely with the Government to represent self-employed persons and freelancers like Edward in the bid to better the welfare and interests of members during this turbulent time. Some of U FSE’s initiatives include online clinic sessions guiding freelancers and self-employed persons on their applications for the Enhanced NTUC Care Fund (COVID-19) and also supporting them on their career transition moving into growth sectors like security and healthcare.
The past year was tough as Edward’s income has taken a big hit. Even with Phase 3, private hire vehicle drivers’ incomes are still nowhere near pre-Covid levels.
Edward’s positive mindset and giving nature is inspiring. Like him, we can only make the best of the cards we’ve been dealt. The storm won’t last forever, until the pandemic is over, every helping hand and every kind word will go a long way in supporting the ones around us.