SINGAPORE — The Singapore government announced on Wednesday (28 August) a series of enhancements to help parents cope with the cost of raising their children, as well as to encourage couples towards parenthood.
These include higher subsidies for pre-school education, extension of vaccination subsidies to all general practitioner (GP) clinics, and a fee waiver for a child’s first passport.
The measures are a follow-up to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally speech earlier this month, in which he outlined significant enhancements in the early-childhood sector, in order to give every child a good start in life and to support families with young children.
Higher subsidies for childcare, infant-care programmes
Currently, families with Singapore-citizen children who are attending childcare and infant-care programmes receive a basic subsidy. They also get an additional subsidy if the mother is working and the gross monthly household income is $7,500 and below.
In addition, families with Singapore-citizen children who are attending kindergarten programmes by Anchor Operators or the Ministry of Education (MOE) receive a subsidy under the Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS) if their gross monthly household income is $6,000 and below.
From January 2020, the gross monthly household income ceiling for both additional subsidy and KiFAS will be raised to $12,000. This is estimated to benefit 30,000 more families, up from 41,000 families already received these subsidies today.
Subsidy amounts will also be increased. For example:
Families earning $3,000 or less per month will pay only $3 per month at an Anchor Operator pre-school.
A dual-income family earning $5,000 per month will pay $130 per month for full-day childcare services at an Anchor Operator, compared to up to $370 per month today.
A dual-income family earning $8,000 per month will pay $280 per month for full-day childcare services, compared to up to $470 per month today.
Expansion of pre-school services
The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), which provides funding support to pre-school services, will be leading the expansion of Anchor Operator and Partner Operator pre-schools.
Currently, there are 572 pre-school centres run by five Anchor Operators, while 23 operators are selected under the Partner Operator scheme to run 250 centres.
ECDA will expand the Partner Operator scheme with a new call for applications from childcare operators, for a five-year term starting from January 2021.
Meanwhile, the government will also establish more Anchor Operator pre-schools in tandem with new public housing and in areas of demand, aiming to raise the percentage of children having a place in government-supported pre-schools from 50 per cent today to 80 per cent by around 2025.
ECDA will also develop a scheme for a small number of quality kindergartens to join as Partner Operators by 2021. KiFAS will be extended to children enrolled in such kindergartens.
MOE will also set up a few more MOE kindergartens, and aims to operate about 60 of them by 2025.
Expansion of KidSTART programme
The KidSTART programme, which provides support for child development and coordinates holistic services for families where needed, has been piloted since July 2016.
It currently benefits about 1,000 children from low-income families living in the pilot regions of Kreta Ayer/Bukit Merah, Taman Jurong/Boon Lay and Geylang Serai.
ECDA will expand KidSTART to more regions to reach another 5,000 children over the next three years. Details will be announced when ready.
Extension of subsidies for vaccinations
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health (MOH) also announced that subsidies for all vaccinations will be extended to GP clinics that are under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS).
vaccinations under the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule (NCIS), which include those against tuberculosis and hepatitis B,
vaccinations for diseases with high outbreak potential such as measles,
vaccinations recommended for personal protection, such as those against pneumococcal disease.
Currently, subsidies are available only at polyclinics, and only for the first two categories.
Similarly, subsidies for childhood developmental screenings will also be extended to GP clinics under the CHAS scheme.
Age limit raised for women undergoing ART treatments
To encourage couples to meet their parental aspirations, MOH will lift the age limit of 45 years old for women to undergo artificial reproduction technology (ART) treatments from 1 January next year. It will also remove the cap on the number of ART cycles for all women.
Currently government co-funding for up to six ART cycles is available only for women below 40 years old at the start of the ART cycle.
Eligible couples can receive co-funding of up to $7,700 per fresh cycle and $2,200 per frozen cycle, for three fresh cycles and three frozen cycles. Up to two of the six co-funded ART cycles can be carried out at age 40 or later, as long as the couple had attempted assisted reproduction or Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI) procedures before age 40.
From 1 January, co-funding will also be introduced for the less-invasive IUI procedure. Eligible couples undergoing the IUI procedures at the public assisted reproduction centres will be able to receive co-funding of up to 75 per cent, capped at $1,000 per treatment cycle, for three cycles of IUI.
Passport application fee waived
Finally, Singaporean babies born in or after January 2020 will not need to pay application fees for their first passports. The current fee is $70.
Parents must submit applications for their newborns online before their first birthday to enjoy the waiver.
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