SINGAPORE — The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) will be undertaking a review for early childhood education subsidies, Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee announced on Sunday (July 1).
“This is a review we do regularly. We want to ensure three things: accessible childcare, affordable childcare, and good quality childcare, regardless of the background of the families,” Mr Lee told reporters on the sidelines of a community event at Boon Lay.
“I think it’s good and it’s timely for us to take another look … (and) ensure that early childhood remains affordable for lower and middle income children.”
He said that the government will continue to invest in early childhood development given its critical importance to children’s long-term wellbeing.
“So that is why we are committed to supporting the growth and development of the early childhood sector, and programmes such as KidSTART and others like it, that comprehensively support children, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds, as well as their families,” he added.
KidSTART is a pilot programme where various agencies coordinates support and monitors the progress of low-income and vulnerable young children.
The review comes about five years after a previous one was taken in 2013, Mr Lee noted.
After the 2013 review, subsidies were raised by at least S$100 for eligible families.
Currently, eligible families can enjoy subsidies of up to S$740 for a full-day child care programme. The amount of subsidies depends on household income.
Mr Lee said that the outcome of the review will be made known next year, adding that it was too early to talk about exact quantums at this early stage.
“We want to announce it early, so that people are aware that this is a process we have to undertake from time to time,” said Mr Lee, adding that the review “must be seen in light of wanting to improve the overall social safety net for Singaporeans from different backgrounds”.
He added that there are a few ways the Government makes childcare affordable.
Apart from direct subsidies to families that require assistance, support is given to families through the Baby Bonus scheme, as well as through the Child Development Account, which is a special savings account that can help defray childcare costs.
The Government also supports anchor and partner operators in the early childhood sector, Mr Lee added.
He also stressed the importance of having coordinated and integrated social service delivery to support children from underprivileged backgrounds, and their families.
“We want to look at the difficulties that families and children face in a holistic, integrated way, understanding what are causes, what are symptoms and addressing both,” he said.
“(We are) not just targeting the symptoms, but also addressing the upstream causes … and this needs to be done in an integrated fashion, one where different providers … come in a coordinated concerted way, in partnership with these families, so that they can stand on their own two feet (and) regain their ability to be self-reliant.”