Where your dollars go, 2016

Posted by on April 29, 2017 in

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In 2016, over 92 percent of TWC2’s spending went towards charitable activities, benefitting our clients in a direct or relatively direct way. This reflects our philosophy of frugality we are proud of.

Total expenditure in the year was $586,308, leaving us with a surplus of $222,616 from the year’s income of $808,923. About 93 percent of this income came from voluntary donations. This surplus represents about 38 percent, or four and a half months’ worth, of running costs (based on 2016 expenditure).

Building reserves is particularly important as client cases stretch months, sometimes years. It is hardly wise to be operating hand to mouth, vulnerable to unexpected funding shortfalls and leaving clients in the lurch. Moreover, having reserves that assure continuity provide our staff with job security and good career prospects, which in turn reduces staff turnover and retains expertise.

The pie chart below shows the expenditure for different programs and activities:

The numbers behind the pie chart come from the audited accounts for 2016 — our financial year coincides with the calendar year — which were, as for several years now, audited in accordance with the Charity Accounting Standard (CAS). Singapore’s Commissioner of Charities strongly recommends that non-profit organisations abide by the CAS standard.

CAS makes an important conceptual distinction among three types of expenditure, and this report follows this classification. They are:

  • Governance costs
  • Cost of generating funds
  • Cost of charitable activities

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GOVERNANCE COSTS

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 and audit fees; bank charges; the cost of holding an Annual General Meeting and whatever is need to comply with law; and a share of rent, telecommunication costs and office supplies.

In 2016, we spent only $38.9k, or 6.6% of total expenditure on these functions.
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COST OF GENERATING FUNDS

These are expenses incurred by activities whose purpose is to raise funds. TWC2 generally avoids organising splashy fund-raising events, relying instead on appealing to donors either through personal contact or through social media (in 2016, with a bit of paid advertising).

Consequently, we spent very little on raising funds. In 2016, a mere $6.9k, or 1.2% of total expenditure, was classed by our auditors as such.
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COST OF CHARITABLE ACTIVITIES

This third category forms the bulk of our 2016 spending — over 92%. As shown in the pie chart above and the discussion below, this category can be further split by programme or purpose.
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 Cuff Road Project

The Cuff Road Project does not only provide free meals to injured and out-of-work workers, it’s also an accessible contact point for simple advice.

Our free meals programme, benefitting out-of-work migrant workers, is the largest of our projects in terms of expenditure.

29.2% percent of 2016 spending went into the Cuff Road Project, at a total cost of $171.4k.

Not only is nourishment essential for human life, this programme creates an easy, welcoming contact point for injured and salary-unpaid workers to come and talk to our volunteers. We are right on the street, and it is not in the least intimidating to walk up and talk to us.

Simple queries can be handled by our volunteers. Workers with more complex problems are referred to our main office where help from social workers will be forthcoming.
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 Social Worker Always There

Two China workers consult with one of TWC2’s social workers at our office

Our social work assistance comes under the moniker ‘Social Worker Always There’ or SWAT for short. We currently have four staff members providing advice and case assistance to workers in need. Common types of assistance provided by social workers include:

  • Calculating what their correct salaries and overtime pay should be and how to commence a claim;
  • Advising workers about their rights when employers become abusive or unreasonable, including helping workers flee when trapped;
  • Helping workers make police reports when assaulted, or cheated;
  • Assisting them in filling forms and communicating with government departments — many workers aren’t confident in English;
  • Overcoming obstacles in obtaining medical care;
  • Ensuring they are paid their due compensation.

As can be seen from the list, our social workers fill a critical need. The salary costs, phone, wifi, training and incidental expenses of social workers, and a share of rent make up the bulk of this spending. In 2016, SWAT needed $133.6k, i.e. 29.2% of our total expenditure.
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 Compassion and relief for emergencies (CARE) Fund

TWC2’s CareFund is there to provide a range of support for foreign workers in need. The key sub-activities are:

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Medical

TWC2 paid for Anowar’s shoulder operation in 2016 to help him regain some functionality to a badly injured joint.

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 (MOM) suspending their treatment options until the matter is sorted out (which can take months). 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. Our CareFund steps in when treatment is urgently needed.

Occasionally, we help pay for major surgery, but we have to be selective. We are conscious that such expenses can rapidly deplete our resources, even though it is difficult turning patients down. Fortunately, in 2016, there were two instances when after we had paid for surgery, we managed (with the help of MOM or lawyers) to get reimbursed by employers — who should have paid for the surgery in the first place.

In 2016, we spent $39.6k on medical needs. This made up 6.8% of our total expenditure.

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Project Roof

Project Roof helped Mina Rubel pay for a bunk in the shophouse behind him.

We have a small programme to assist workers with the cost of housing. Here again, accommodation is supposed to be the employer’s responsibility, but there are cases where the employer has made it extremely difficult (e.g. threatening) for the employee to continue living in the company dorm. MOM is not particularly effective in enforcing the law in this regard.

Consequently, we regularly come across workers in need of shelter, but since rent is expensive in Singapore, TWC2 has chosen not to run a shelter in the normal sense. Instead, when we see dire cases — e.g. workers who are severely injured with no friend or family to borrow money from — we provide cash subsidies to them them rent a bunk.

In 2016, we spent $25.9k providing this kind of assistance, constituting 4.4% of total expenditure.

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Project FareGo

Project FareGo ensures that injured workers have the means to visit doctors and physiotherapists.

TWC2 also helps workers with transport costs. This is an area where regulations (and MOM) provide no help to workers at all. Employers are not mandated to help foreign workers with their transport costs even though hospitals require them to show up for their doctor appointments or physiotherapy. Failure to show up could jeopardise their work injury claims.

Under Project FareGo, we provide top-ups to workers’ stored-value fare cards so that they do not miss their appointments. This programme has rigorous eligibility criteria to keep our costs down.

In 2016, we spent $25.3k on FareGo. This was 4.3% of total expenditure.

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Miscellaneous CareFund expenditure

The above projects do not comprehensively cover injured and salary-unpaid workers needs. Other small uses of the Care Fund include these:

  • buying an air ticket for a worker stranded in Singapore, with no employer responsible for repatriation;
  • providing meals to workers who come to our office seeking help and who have had nothing to eat for 12 – 24 hours;
  • helping a worker pay a fee to obtain copies of his hospital records, without which his injury compensation claim is stuck;
  • helping a worker pay for forensic analysis to prove that salary vouchers tendered by an employer in court are forgeries.

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. In 2016, Miscellaneous CareFund expenditure amounted to $11.1k, or 1.9% of total spending.
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 DaySpace

Giving a talk to students at the DaySpace

In order to carry out our many activities, TWC2 needs a multi-purpose space. We rent the upper floor of a shophouse in Little India as our ‘DaySpace’. Among the many uses it is put too are:

  • Safe space in the day for workers to rest in quiet;
  • Registration of clients and consultation (especially when they come in big groups, too big for our office to accommodate);
  • Emergency shelter when workers have had to flee company accommodation in fear;
  • Volunteer induction and training;
  • Public talks;
  • As a location where other charity groups can conduct joint activities with TWC2 (e.g. free medical check-ups).

Pro-bono doctors and health practitioners use TWC2’s DaySpace to provide free medical consultation — not just to TWC2 clients.

In 2016, operating the DaySpace cost us $34.5k, or 5.9% of total expenditure.
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 Enrichment

On Sundays, the DaySpace is given over to two affiliated groups of domestic workers for them to conduct classes. They are the Indonesian Family Network and the Filipino Family Network. TWC2 also helps support their activities with a bit of funding, which comes under the category of ‘Enrichment activities’.

For the injured and salary-unpaid workers under our care, the Discover Singapore team of volunteers take them out once or twice a month on excursions and other sporty-type activities. This alleviates workers’ boredom (and risk of depression) as they often have to wait months or years for case resolution. The programme keeps them active and builds social rapport. As much as injured workers need medical care, they also need this kind of support for their psychological wellbeing. TWC2 directs a bit of funding to Discover Singapore for their programmes; some donors have also earmarked their donations for them.

One of many Discover Singapore events, led by enthusiastic volunteers

In total, Enrichment cost us $23.6k, or 4.0% of total expenditure.
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 Outreach

Informing workers that assistance is available from TWC2 is a core activity. For this we rely mostly on our social workers and volunteers, but expenses are incurred printing pamphlets and other literature. To transport the materials to the distribution point also costs a bit of money.

In 2016, such expenses cost $5.5k, or 0.9% of total expenditure.

Outreach is relatively low-cost because volunteers provide the bulk of the manpower, but we incur costs in printing and transport.

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 Other activities in support of mission goals

Providing direct help to workers in need is not the sum total of TWC2’s mission. An equally important goal is to cure the defects in regulations and social attitudes that cause the inequities we see afflicting foreign workers. To this end, TWC2 conducts a range of advocacy activities, chiefly:

  • Research;
  • Communication with the public via website and social media;
  • Engagement with media;
  • Engagement with interested members of the public, including talks given to school or college groups, and with policy-makers

Related to these are costs associated with managing volunteers and handling public enquiries. Our Administration Officer is the point person for this, and thus there are office and staff costs needed to achieve these goals. There are also costs associated with maintaining data systems so that we have access to accurate information for case management and volunteer management.

For these ‘Other charitable activities’, we spent $70.0k in 2016. This amount made up 11.9% of total expenditure.