88 percent of our 2014 spending was on charitable activities

Posted by on March 6, 2015 in Articles, Facts, research, analysis, News, News Flash

 

In 2014, about 88 percent of TWC2’s spending went towards charitable activities, benefitting our clients in a relatively direct way. Total expenditure in the year was $463,025, leaving us with a surplus of $108,203 from the year’s income of $571,228. About 94 percent of this income came from voluntary donations, with much of the balance raised through fundraising activities.

We closed the year with a reserve of $887,534 carried forward, which represents about 20 months’ expenses. Reserves are important as client cases often stretch over months (even over a year for some individuals). With them depending on us, it is hardly wise to be operating hand to mouth, vulnerable to unexpected funding shortfalls.

The numbers behind the pie chart above come from the audited accounts for 2014 which will be upoloaded as soon as we receive a soft copy from the auditors. Our financial year coincides with the calendar year. Starting the year before, our accounts have been audited in accordance with the Charity Accounting Standard (CAS), the standard recommended by Singapore’s Commissioner of Charities.

Key terms used by CAS or which refer to our internal classification are explained below.

expense_split_2014

 

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Restricted and Unrestricted Funds

Restricted funds are donations where the donor specifically attaches his gift to a particular purpose. TWC2 has five main ‘projects’ that are capable of receiving restricted funds:

1.  The Cuff Road Project: free meals;

2.  The Care Fund: medical, transport, shelter and other emergency assistance;

3.  Social Worker Always There (SWAT): social workers;

4.  The Enrichment Fund: enrichment activities for workers; and

5.  The Outreach Fund: outreach to workers to inform them of their rights and avenues for problem resolution.

The Unrestricted  fund contains monies donated or raised (by our fundraising activities) which are not attached to any particular project, and allow us to cover our overheads and miscellaneous charitable activities not defined within any of the five projects. Unrestricted funds also permit us the flexibility of being transferred into any of the five restricted funds to top it up, should it run into deficit. In 2014, the SWAT, Enrichment and the FareGo component of the Care Fund were in deficit (i.e. donations to these were less than expenditure) and had to rely on cashflow from unrestricted funds.

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The Cuff Road Project

Our free meals programme, benefitting out-of-work migrant workers, is the largest of our projects in terms of expenditure. 42.5 percent of 2014 spending went into the Cuff Road Project. The total spent in 2014 turned out to be lower than in 2013.

While there was a price increase in the cost of meals, the number of meals served fell, the reasons for which are not fully known; they are perhaps a mix of reasons. Possibly the tightening of foreign worker numbers in Singapore may play a role. Additionally, the Ministry of Manpower has been making greater efforts insisting that employers continue to house their workers through their recovery or dispute resolution periods — which means the workers remain the the dormitories located in the far fringes of Singapore. Too far for the workers to eat with us in Little India on a regular basis.

On the optimistic side, the falling numbers may simply mean fewer workers are being injured or having salary disputes, but we have no other indicators that this may be so.

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Compassion and relief for emergencies (CARE) Fund

The Care Fund is important for three main areas of assistance to workers in need:

1.  Medical and dental treatment, and rehabilitation;

2. Transport subsidies (also called FareGo);

3. Emergency shelter (Project Roof for men, Project Lifeline for women).

Although employers are required by law to pay for medical care, their liability is capped. Some workers need more medical care beyond the cap. Others find that their employers deny that the injury was work-related, with the Ministry of Manpower suspending their treatment options until the matter is sorted out (which can take up to a year). Moreover, during the lengthy period recovering from a work injury, a few are hit with an unrelated illness and need  to see a doctor or dentist.

Natarajan Kugan was one of many beneficiaries of our FareGo programme, helping injured workers like him with transport costs

Natarajan Kugan was one of many beneficiaries of our FareGo programme, helping injured workers like him with transport costs

TWC2’s Care Fund steps in when treatment is urgently needed.

Only rarely do we pay for major surgery since we are conscious that such expenses can rapidly deplete our resources, even though it is difficult turning patients down. For less expensive procedures, involving a cost of a few hundred or slightly over a thousand dollars per client, help is more readily available.

Injured workers need to visit hospitals regularly for treatment and occupational therapy.  TWC2 provides a small, carefully controlled top-up to their fare cards, under our FareGo programme. Like the Cuff Road Project, this programme has rigorous pre-qualification criteria.

In the middle of 2014, we initiated on a pilot basis separate shelter projects for men and women. At any given time, we should be able to house up to three women and ten men. Injured workers are unable to work, and sometimes employers have been so abusive that there is no option of them going back to company quarters. The help that TWC2 provides in giving them a bed for the night is a lifeline.

Other small uses of the Care Fund include the occasional instance of:

  • a worker stranded in Singapore, with no employer paying for the flight home;
  • providing meals to workers who come to our office seeking help and who have had nothing to eat for 12 – 24 hours;
  • emergency clothes and toiletries for those who had to flee their dorms, leaving all their possessions behind, when thuggish repatriation agents came for them;
  • when a worker needs to pay a fee to obtain copies of his hospital records, without which his injury compensation claim is stuck.

The amounts involved (for these small uses) are relatively tiny, but they are mentioned here to illustrate the variety of emergencies TWC2 has to help with.

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Social worker always there (SWAT) Fund

Some cases are quite complicated, and professional social workers are needed to help the workers in question. Workers are faced with obstacles such as non-proficiency in the English language, unfamiliarity with laws and bureaucratic processes, lack of family and social support — particularly urgent when they are badly injured and cannot even look after themselves. They are often also disadvantaged by a tendency of employers to withhold documents from them. Working with the Ministry of Manpower, hospitals and the police is not something that the typical worker can do without knowledgeable assistance.

Our social workers fill a critical need.

Social workers Karno (at top) and Louis (at right) listening to and advising clients

Social workers Karno (at top) and Louis (at right) listening to and advising clients

The salary costs, communication, training and incidental expenses of social workers, and a share of rent make up the bulk of this spending.

Through 2014, we had two social workers: Nor Karno and Louis Ong. In 2015, TWC2 intends to recruit a third social worker to cope with our growing caseload at the office.

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Outreach Fund

Informing workers that assistance is available from TWC2 is a core activity. For this we rely mostly on volunteers, but expenses are incurred printing pamphlets and other literature. The outreach fund also enables us to rent venues where we can conduct talks to inform workers of their rights, though in 2014 we did not have any expenditure along these lines. This was because we were offered free venues, e.g. by a hospital and a temple.

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Discover Singapore brought a busload of delighted workers to the SEA Aquarium in 2014

Discover Singapore brought a busload of delighted workers to the SEA Aquarium in 2014

Enrichment Fund

The fund helps pay of activities meant to enrich workers’ lives. For domestic workers, it takes the form of subsidies to help them pay for self-organised activities, e.g. classes and graduation celebrations. For male workers (almost all of them injured ones), the fund supports TWC2’s Discover Singapore team, which organises activities twice a month to interesting places to help keep their spirits up and regain their mobility — part of the rehabilitation process.

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Miscellaneous charitable activities

These expenses come out of the Unrestricted Fund. Most of the expenses are related to the cost (and salary) of the Administration Officer, whose job mainly relates to liaising with volunteers, supporting advocacy (e.g. organising press conferences), and organising events such as International Migrants Day that benefit workers. A share of rent and maintenance costs — because the space is essential for our volunteers to work in and to provide consultation to workers —  is also allocated to this category.

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Fundraising expenses (also termed ‘Cost of generating funds’)

These are expenses incurred by activities whose purpose is to raise funds. Our auditors classify research expenses under this category. In our view, it is a borderline call. While it is true that our research output is capable of generating funds when third parties pay us for our knowledge, research is also part of the advocacy mission of TWC2, and thus could equally be considered a charitable activity.

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Governance expenses

These are expenses that would have to be incurred by the organisation even if we did little by way of charitable activities. They include accounting costs, bank charges, an apportionment of rent, communication costs and office supplies. The cost of the Accounts Officer (including salary) is in here too, as are professional and audit fees, and the small cost of conducting an annual general meeting (under $1,000).

 

TWC2 is an organization that is dedicated to assisting low-wage migrant workers when they are in difficulty. We are motivated by a sense of fairness and humanity, though our caseload often exceeds our
means.

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