Cut by MP Louis Ng during Ministry of Social and Family Development’s Committee of Supply Debate 2019
Childcare subsidies for non-working moms
During our Motion on “Education for Our Future”, Speaker asked who is the best teacher and where is the best school. We parents are the best teachers for our children and our home is the best school.
And the most important time for us to be teachers and for our homes to be a school is during our child’s formative years.
As such our policies should not penalise parents who are not working so that they can be there for their child.
Why do we provide less subsidies to families with non-working mothers and more subsidies to families with working mothers? The Government previously said that non-working mothers need less childcare but we need to remember that the fees for half day childcare is not half of the fees for full day childcare.
I’m not asking for families with non-working mothers to have more subsidies. I’m asking for it to be fair, for all childcare subsidies to be dependent on the household income and not whether the mother is working or not.
Watch the speech here
Excerpts from the response by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim
Quality early childhood development builds strong foundations for life. MyMinistry strives to give every child a good start. Since National Day Rally 2012, we have significantly enhanced access to affordable and quality preschools.
We want to assure members that the Government is committed to making preschool affordable.
The expansion of Anchor and Partner Operator preschools, as well as MOE Kindergartens, ensures the supply of affordable preschool services.
In addition, the Government provides subsidies to help defray the fees borne by parents, especially those from lower-income groups.
Last year, Minister Desmond Lee shared that we are further reviewing preschool subsidies. While this review is still ongoing, we will begin to enhance operational processes to improve access to preschool subsidies.
We agree with Mr Louis Ng and Ms Anthea Ong that we can do more to address preschool 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.
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 child care. 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 2 years old. Depending on her household income, Mdm Lee may also be eligible for up to $440 of means-tested Additional Subsidy.
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.
To Mr Ng’s query, non-working mothers can consider enrolling their children in kindergartens, which are generally more affordable than child care services.
For instance, today’s median monthly fees are $171 for kindergartens and $856 for child care, before subsidies.
And with the Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme, or KiFAS, the out-of- pocket cost for low- and middle-income parents who enrol their children in Anchor Operator or MOE Kindergartens is a few dollars a month.
I am also glad to announce that ECDA will give parents greater certainty on the amount of child care subsidies they will receive.
ECDA previously verified the working status of mothers annually. From this year, this will be performed at fixed points in the child’s preschool years, which may be up to 2.5 years apart.
The longer timeframe between ECDA’s reassessments will give families more certainty on the amount of subsidies they receive, even if parents transit between jobs, or take on caregiving responsibilities.
Through these enhancements, more than 5,000 households like Mdm Lee’s will benefit every year, starting from 1st March 2019.
Watch the response here