30 April 2020
Fee Offset for Extended Circuit Breaker Period (5 May – 1 June) for Those at Childcare Centres
1. Earlier in April, we began a month-long Circuit Breaker. As part of the Circuit Breaker, preschools had to suspend general services. ECDA then called for preschools to provide parents with offsets for 50% of their nett fees1, for Singaporean children not attending preschool during this period, with parents bearing the remaining 50% of fees. We had earlier written to you to explain why we did so.
2. On 21 April 2020, PM Lee announced the extension of the Circuit Breaker by four weeks, from 5 May to 1 June. At the same time, MOE announced that the June school holidays would be brought forward to 5 May 2020. This means:
a) Kindergartens: Kindergartens’ usual 4-week June school holidays will move forward to May, coinciding with the extended Circuit Breaker period.
b) Childcare centres: In line with the Circuit Breaker extension, general services will be suspended for an extended period from 5 May to 1 June.
3. We recognise that parents and preschools are concerned about fees for the extended Circuit Breaker period of May. For kindergartens, the issue of fee offset for forgone services does not arise, as May will now be the school holidays. For childcare centres, the issue remains.
Shouldering the impact together
4. In our 15 April letter to all parents, we had explained why we had adopted the position for the first Circuit Breaker period in April. Namely, these are exceptional times where all are facing major challenges and we need to share the burden collectively. The 50:50 approach is the fairer way to share the burden, with Government providing support to both parents and operators.
5. Similarly, the same considerations apply to the extended Circuit Breaker period in May. Recognising that we have to continue to share the burden of this crisis collectively, we have called for all childcare centres to provide 50% nett fee offset for enrolled Singaporean children who are not attending preschool for the extended Circuit Breaker period of May. This offset can be invoiced on or from June onwards, depending on each childcare centre’s policy. This means that the offset is applicable for children who remain enrolled in June and there are fees payable against which to offer the offset.
Varying how the fee offset is provided
6. We seek parents’ understanding that individual childcare centres may have to vary exactly how they can provide the offset, depending on their financial circumstances. The childcare centres are not homogenous, and government assistance may not cover the entire cost of operations for all, depending on their exact cost structure and manpower mix.
7. As such, while we have called for a 50% fee offset, childcare operators may vary exactly how the offset sharing is provided. Some may have to pace out the 50% fee offset over a few months or until things get better, or provide some offset in kind, such as providing additional classes during non-programme time, learning resources, or credits for future activities. Where childcare operators have parents who are less impacted by the COVID-19 situation and are prepared to forego all or some of the offset to support the preschool and teachers, operators may seek to work out a mutually acceptable arrangement with them. On the other hand, where operators are able, we welcome them to do more, especially for parents in greater need. We understand some have funds to help families who are in financial need.
8. We know that many of our preschool teachers have been working hard to develop home-based learning resources to continue engaging and supporting your child’s development while you and your child are at home. This is a completely new challenge for many teachers but they are taking it on to the best of their abilities. Many teachers also conduct regular check-ins with your children and yourselves. I hope that parents recognise these efforts amidst trying times, and continue to support your preschools and teachers, during this challenging period.
9. ECDA will continue to support parents with preschool subsidies and automatically waive the normal requirements for preschool subsidies in May 2020. For parents facing job losses or reduced income or other difficulties, Government has introduced various schemes such as the COVID-19 Support Grant, Self-Employed Income Relief Scheme, Enhanced Workfare Special Payment, in addition to existing ComCare schemes.
10. Parents whose incomes are affected for the longer term may also approach your preschool to apply to have your subsidies reassessed so that you may qualify for a higher subsidy tier. We seek your understanding that applications may need some time to be processed due to an increase in applications, but we will strive to expedite as quickly as possible.
Emerging stronger together
11. We recognise that the COVID-19 situation is presenting great changes and challenges for everyone. We seek your support to stay united, so that we can share the impact of the Circuit Breaker collectively, and emerge stronger together when this storm is over.
Early Childhood Development Agency
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1Nett fees refer to the fees payable by parents after GST and preschool subsidy.