Early childhood education subsidies under review

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Photo: YouTube screenshot

Desmond Lee, Social and Family Development Minister, announced on July 1 that the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) will be reviewing its current early education subsidies.

Mr. Lee said that this review is undertaken at regular intervals in order to ensure that regardless of the background of these children’s families, they have are given childcare that is accessible, affordable and of good quality, especially for households of low and middle incomes.

The minister assured that the government believes in how crucial early childhood development is for young children, and that it will proceed with investing in worthwhile programs along this vein. 

These programs include KidSTART, a program that facilitates various agencies coming together to assist and keep track of the development of children who are vulnerable or who belong to low-income families.

Mr. Lee said, “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.”

Previous to this year’s review, the most recent one that was undertaken was five years ago in 2013, which resulted in increased subsidies for eligible families, by at least $100.

Subsidies are based on household income, and can go up to $740 a month for a full-day child care program, for qualified families.

Mr. Lee announced that the results of the review would come out in 2019, but they were making it known earlier. According to him, the review “must be seen in light of wanting to improve the overall social safety net for Singaporeans from different backgrounds”.

Mr. Lee gave examples of how the government makes childcare easy to afford for families, aside from direct subsidies. For example, families receive additional support through the Baby Bonus program, as well as the Child Development Account, a designated savings account that lessens the burden of childcare costs on parents.

Mr. Lee also focused on how important it is to deliver social services that are integrated and coordinated to lower-income 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.”

The Early Childhood Development Agency, and the government itself, he says, does not just focus on symptoms, “but also address(es) 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.”