Free Childcare for Low-Income Families

Parliamentary Speech: Budget 2019 Debate

Children from low-income families, like all other children, deserve access to high-quality formal childcare services and early childhood education. Though their parents could pay as low as $5 a month in childcare fees, they face multiple hurdles in accessing the maximum level of subsidies, including having to meet certain requirements for work. Also, those in informal or ad-hoc jobs may have difficulty meeting and/or producing proof of work due to the sporadic nature of their jobs.

The current subsidy system incurs a high administrative cost. A significant amount of paperwork and back-and-forth between childcare operators, MSF, parents, and social workers is involved in appealing for the maximum level of further subsidies. The extra paperwork involved is often a disincentive for operators to enrol low-income children. Whether these children from low-income families can access such child care services should not be dependent on the employment status of their parents.

Can the Ministry allow all parents who earn less than $2,500 or per capita income of less than $650 access subsidised childcare for free, regardless of the parent’s employment status?

The Senior Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social and Family Development (Assoc Prof Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim):

1. We agree with Mr Louis Ng and Ms Anthea Ong that we can do more to address pre-school affordability concerns of non-working mothers. Therefore, I am pleased to announce that ECDA will provide more subsidies to non-working mothers who are looking for work, or who are unable to work because they are caring for a younger child.

2. Mothers like Mdm Lee Siok Hong will benefit from this. A mother of two children, Mdm Lee cares for her younger child at home, while her elder child is enrolled in childcare. Based on our prevailing rules, Mdm Lee may qualify for $300 Basic Subsidy for her elder child until her younger child turns 18 months old. With our enhancements, Mdm Lee will receive $300 Basic Subsidy for an additional six months, until her younger child turns two years old. Depending on her household income, Mdm Lee may also be eligible for up to $440 of means-tested Additional Subsidy.

3. Mothers who are looking for a job will also benefit from our enhancements. Under our prevailing rules, a job-seeking mother may qualify for $300 Basic Subsidy for three months. With our enhancements, she will receive $300 Basic Subsidy, and up to $440 of means-tested Additional subsidies, for six months. We hope this will give mothers greater peace of mind to secure a job.

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Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)

The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities.

She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion, environment — and volunteerism in Parliament.

A full-time human, and part-time everything else.