From a Singaporean who needed assistance after losing his job, to a Singaporean who faced strained relationships from family members due to involuntary No-Pay-Leave (NPL), Ms Nurul Huda Binte Abdul Latiff helped to support them all.
Based at MSF’s Bukit Merah and Kreta Ayer Social Service Office (SSO), the 28-year-old SSO officer has been processing walk-in and online applications for the COVID-19 Support Grant and the Temporary Relief Fund. She believes in providing a listening ear to fully appreciate the circumstances in which applicants reach out for help.
“Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the huge number of applications but I always remind myself that the simple personal touches—such as wishing applicants all the best with their job search, asking how they are coping, checking if they need other kinds of assistance—make the application process less transactional and more relational between me and the applicants.”
Over two months, some 35,000 Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents have been supported through the COVID-19 Support Grant. Around 450,000 applications for the Temporary Relief Fund were also approved to provide one-off interim assistance scheme in April 2020 to help Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents who needed immediate assistance for their basic expenses.
Nurul, a manager of the SSO’s Regional Services Team, which does ground sensing, service management and case coordination, was roped in by the Social Service Office to process COVID-19 Support Grant applications after helping with the Temporary Relief Fund applications in April. She tends to seniors and others who have difficulties with online applications for the Grant, helps to verify supporting documents submitted by applicants and ensures that they meet the grant criteria, such as the three-month period of involuntary NPL.
For her attentiveness to their concerns, Nurul has received compliments from applicants. One of them thanked her for “going the extra mile to provide comforting encouragement”.
“The affirmation I receive makes my job even more rewarding,” says Nurul. “And I feel privileged to help lighten the burden of those who need support.”
Nurul handles many complex cases, and when applicants do not meet the grant criteria, she is proactive and steers them to other aid channels.
One applicant, who was initially upset about not meeting the criteria, cooled down after Nurul took time to understand the pressures he was facing. He shared about financial and marital problems. Nurul promptly referred him to MSF’s ComCare assistance scheme and its Family Services Centre for more targeted assistance.
Among the challenges Nurul faces is the pressure of processing multiple applications quickly, so that applicants receive support promptly. “Also, sometimes we have applicants who are anxious and keep calling to get updates on the status of their applications,” she adds.
“So, my colleagues and I have to remain patient and take some time to assure them that we are doing our best to assist them.”
She is also inspired by many big-hearted individuals in the community who have assisted their illiterate neighbours with online applications for the COVID-19 Support Grant.
“Acts like these remind me that there is so much goodness out there even in difficult times. No act of kindness is ever too small to make a difference in someone’s life,” Nurul says.
For more information on the COVID-19 Support Grant and other help schemes, visit supportgowhere.gov.sg.