The Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board has come out to clarify the circumstances surrounding a 55-year-old Singaporean, Mdm Carena Tan’s request to draw out her CPF savings to pay for her mentally ill son’s treatment.

Mdm Tan’s story went viral online last week, after she publicly revealed that the CPF Board rejected her request to withdraw S$70,000 from her Retirement Account to fund her family’s living expenses and treatment for her son, who apparently suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The CPF Board rejected her request, citing that she would not be able to set aside the full retirement sum of S$171,000 in her Retirement Account if she withdrew the S$70,000 she applied to withdraw. It instead asked her to “re-consider approaching the Social Service Office @ Bukit Panjang for financial assistance.”

Furious, Ms Tan shot back: “Do you consider your recommendation to reconsider going to social welfare instead of using my own CPF funds an emphasis on moral decay and corruption?”

Sharing that her son is going through “mental and emotional upheaval,” she warned: “In the event that Ian commits suicide, kills someone or is killed, I will hold all relevant persons and ministries accountable for failing to release my funds for his alternative medical treatments…”

In a letter to CPF Board that she made public, Mdm Tan added: “You have just added another layer to the already miserable circumstances that we are struggling with. You have topped in your obsession to blindly follow a set of protocols above and over humanity.”

Mdm Tan’s story quickly went viral online. Responding to the case in a statement on their social media page, CPF Board has since said that Mdm Tan has already “drawn out part of her CPF last year”.

The authority added that Mdm Tan and her 25-year-old son “have been receiving monthly ComCare assistance since Jan 2018” and that Mdm Tan’s son “has been receiving appropriate treatments at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), and his current treatment at IMH is fully covered as he is being assisted under ComCare.”

CPF Board promised that it will work together with the Family Service Centre, the Medical Social Worker at IMH and VWO community partners to “support her family in this time of need.”

CPF Board’s response, however, has failed to assure some Singaporeans.

Noting that Mdm Tan is perhaps “reluctant to ask for handouts till she has exhausted her own resources, and as she sees her CPF as her own money, she wants to use it to solve her immediate problems,” Facebook user Ant Hz responded:

“I am not disputing the official position but please may I just ask that we look at this poor woman more charitably? 

“Maybe she is reluctant to ask for handouts till she has exhausted her own resources, and as she sees her CPF as her own money, she wants to use it to solve her immediate problems. Whether she is going to use it wisely or not is a different matter. Who are we to judge a mother’s hopes for her child’s health. 

“Is it possible to appreciate the fact that she wants to use her own money FIRST (rather than taxpayers’ money) to solve her problems?

“She has a different perspective from the CPF board. That doesn’t warrant the malicious comments directed towards her please. It’s not easy to be in her shoes.”

Several others echoed the netizen’s views and expressed disappointment that a CPF member would have to “beg” to get their savings back:

Others, however, flamed Mdm Tan instead and said that the purpose of CPF would be defeated if she was allowed to withdraw part of her savings:

Angry mother warns CPF Board: ‘It’s your fault if I can’t withdraw my savings and my son kills himself’