SINGAPORE: Parents and childcare operators have welcomed a new subsidy framework for childcare and infant care services announced by the government on Wednesday.
The new framework, aimed at making childcare and infant care more affordable, will kick in in April.
Previously, subsidies were standardised across all income levels.
The new framework will now be based on a tiered scheme.
Current subsidies of $300 for the full—day childcare programme will remain as the Basic Subsidy.
Over and above that, depending on income levels, households could get an Additional Subsidy of up to $440.
With the additional subsidies, some childcare operators said more than half the children at their centres will be paying lower fees.
The YWCA Child Development Centre expects more than 50 per cent of its children to benefit from the additional subsidies.
Meanwhile NTUC First Campus CEO, Chan Tee Seng, said more than 60 per cent of parents at My First Skool can expect to pay lower childcare fees.
29—year—old Nurasikin works from 8am to 5pm every day.
She is able to work with peace of mind, knowing her youngest son Ashriq is well taken care of at a childcare centre.
But it comes at a cost for the working mum of five children with a family income of $3,600.
Ashriq’s childcare fees cost S$340, after the current S$300 basic subsidy.
But from April, thanks to additional subsidies from the government, Madam Nurasikin will only need to pay S$30 in fees.
She will receive S$310 in additional subsidies on top of the S$300 basic subsidy.
Madam Nurasikin said: "Previously my concern was more financially, since I have another four more children. Now, with the new enhancement, it’s really, really going to help my family a lot. I can save for my children’s future studies, and also maybe apply for a house. That’s what I and my husband are planning to do."
As for those from middle—income families like the Tan siblings, the savings from the childcare fees could soon afford them swimming and dance classes.
That’s because with the income ceiling raised to S$7,500, their parents will qualify for S$100 in additional subsidies.
But it would take much more to persuade their parents to grow their brood.
Mr Adrian Tan said: "Having another kid, the cost is much more than this
S$100, and it’s not only the money. It’s also whether we can cope with another newborn, the time that we have. In the first place, we only planned to have two (children), and now we already have two."
With the additional subsidies, childcare operators expect the demand for their services to go up.
Mr Chan, CEO of NTUC First Campus, said he is particularly heartened that higher subsidies for lower income families mean more children from such families will be able to attend a childcare centre.
But the operators said finding enough qualified childcare teachers may be an issue.
Ms Sandy Koh, manager of YWCA Child Development Centre, said: "This industry requires teachers with passion, and it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. Not everybody can do the job. That’s one factor. The other factor is of course the pay. We do have to pay the teachers market rate."
The Ministry of Social and Family Development says it will be announcing more measures to improve the accessibility, quality and affordability of early childhood development programmes soon.
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