05 March 2020

ENHANCED SUPPORT FOR PRESCHOOL OPERATORS AND FAMILIES

1. As part of the Government’s efforts to give every child a good start, the following changes were announced at the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s (MSF’s) COS 2020 to better support preschool operators and families:

a. Extension and enhancement of preschool support schemes – to incentivise operators to develop more quality and affordable places for families;
b. Maximum preschool subsidies for low-income households under HDB’s Public Rental Scheme or ComCare schemes – to provide greater certainty and reduce administration for families;
c. Extension of Preschool Opportunity Fund for low-income families – to help children better access developmental activities;
d. Scaling up and Growing Together with KidSTART – to increase Government and community support for children from low-income families.

2. These enhancements build on moves introduced since 2012, including the medium-term plans announced at National Day Rally 2019 (please see Annex A):

a. Enhance the affordability of preschools to be closer to primary school levels by (i) enhancing means-tested subsidies from 1 Jan 2020; and (ii) lowering fee caps, starting with Partner Operators from 1 Jan 2021; and
b. Enhance the accessibility of affordable, quality preschools by increasing government-supported preschool places from just over 50 percent today to about 80 percent by around 2025.

More Support for Preschool Operators

Extension and Enhancement of Preschool Support Schemes

3. To incentivise preschool operators to develop more quality and affordable places for families, the Government will extend and enhance three support schemes, and streamline them into a single Infrastructure Support Grant (ISG) to help preschools defray infrastructure-related expenses. The ISG will help the following categories of preschool operators (subject to eligibility conditions):
a. Non-profit operators that set up new childcare centres (or expand existing centres) at HDB Open Selection Process void deck sites1;
b. Non-profit and commercial operators of kindergartens that wish to convert to new full-day childcare centres to better meet local demand; and
c. Non-profit and commercial operators that set up new childcare centres near workplaces. 

1C​entres at these sites are charged subsidised Open Selection Process rental rates.

4. In addition, the Government will open up the ISG to new childcare centres at Community/Sports Facilities Scheme (CSFS) premises. Under CSFS, bonus gross floor area allowance is currently provided to developers/owners of qualifying commercial developments, to incentivise them to set aside space for childcare centres.

5. The existing Portable Rental Subsidy Scheme and the Teaching & Learning (T&L) Resources Grant will be extended and enhanced. These schemes help preschools, which are not Anchor Operators (AOP) or Partner Operators, defray rental costs and support their quality improvement efforts, respectively. Please see Annex B for details. 


More Support for Low-Income Families


Maximum Subsidy for Public Rental and ComCare Families

6. With enhanced means-tested preschool subsidies announced at NDR 2019 implemented from Jan 2020, more low-income families with working mothers are now paying $3 per month for full-day childcare at AOP preschools.

7. In addition, the Government will do more to support low-income families with non-working mothers, to provide them with greater certainty on the amount of subsidies they will receive and reduce the administrative burden for them to qualify for subsidies.

8. Building on enhancements to the Special Approval framework2 in COS 2019, ECDA will automatically qualify families under HDB’s Public Rental Scheme, or receiving ComCare Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance or Long-Term Assistance for the working mother Basic Subsidy and maximum Additional Subsidy for children, regardless of the mother’s working status, upon application for Special Approval. Unlike the current support via Special Approval and Child Care Financial Assistance, which could be shorter in duration, this subsidy will hold until the next point of assessment (e.g. end of Nursery 2).

9. If such families opt for half-day kindergartens run by AOP or MOE, they will also automatically qualify for maximum subsidies under the Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS) upon application.

10. In addition, for new enrolments into childcare centres or kindergartens from these families, we will facilitate applications for Start-Up Grants (SUG), which defray the initial costs of enrolment such as uniforms and deposit. These families need not submit supporting documents for SUG applications if prevailing criteria are met. 

2From Mar 2019, enhanced subsidy support is provided under Special Approval for non-working mothers taking care of a younger child aged 24 months and below, or seeking employment. Fixed points of assessment was also introduced to provide parents with greater certainty on the amount of subsidies they can receive, even as they transit between jobs or take on caregiving responsibilities.

11. These enhancements are in line with the Government’s efforts to coordinate social services for low-income groups, by linking assistance schemes across the preschool, social and housing sectors. These changes take effect from Aug 2020. 


Extension of Preschool Opportunity Fund for Low-income Families

12. The Preschool Opportunity Fund (PSOF), which helps children access developmental activities such as excursions and speech and drama programmes at their preschools for free3, will be extended. It benefits children from families with monthly household income not exceeding $4,500, or who are assessed to be at risk4.

13. Parents and operators have given positive feedback about PSOF, observing that it has aided children in developing their social and language skills, among other positive outcomes.

14. Under PSOF, centres can be given up to $1,300 for each qualifying child for each project. Projects will be funded for up to one year. Funding may be renewed, subject to assessment of project outcomes. 

3PSOF does not cover children in AOP preschools, as AOPs are required to set aside funds to support children from low-income families.
4For example, children who lack family support or conducive home conditions.

Scaling up and Growing Together with KidSTART

15. Under the KidSTART programme, ECDA provides upstream, holistic support to children aged 0-6 from low-income families. KidSTART currently benefits over 1,000 children in three regions5. The Government will expand KidSTART to more regions to reach another 5,000 children over the next three years, starting first with Woodlands. The monthly household income ceiling will be raised from $1,900 today to $2,500 from Apr 2020, so that more families can be eligible for KidSTART.

5These regions are Kreta Ayer/Bukit Merah, Taman Jurong/Boon Lay and Geylang Serai.

16. Even as the Government steps up support, it is important to strengthen community support for KidSTART families. Since the Growing Together with KidSTART initiative was announced in Sep 2019, interested corporates and individuals have stepped forward. The aim is to facilitate deeper and more sustained giving relationships with KidSTART children and families. More information on KidSTART can be found at Annex C, and while examples of partners who have contributed to Growing Together with KidSTART are at Annex D.

A Good Start for Every Child

17. Overall, the Government will increase its annual spending on the early childhood sector from around $1 billion today to more than $2 billion within the next few years. Together, we will provide a good start for every child.​​​​​​​​


Annex A

Recap of Key Moves to Transform the Early Childhood Sector

1. Since 2012, the Government has undertaken several key moves to raise the quality, accessibility and affordability of preschools. This is im​portant to give every child a good start in life and to support families with young children. The key moves are summarised in the following table:

Quality

Uplift Early Childhood Standards

•   A new Early Childhood Development Centres Act took effect from Jan 2019, bringing childcare centres and kindergartens under the same regulatory framework to ensure more consistent and higher quality standards across the preschool sector.

•   The Singapore Preschool Accreditation Framework (SPARK) has been continuously enhanced to better provide quality assurance for preschools. Today, around 50% of preschools are SPARK-certified.


Enhanced Early Childhood Resources

•   MOE has developed Nurturing Early Learners curriculum resources since 2012 to help Early Childhood educators create quality learning experiences for children aged 4-6; MOE Kindergartens were introduced in 2014 to catalyse quality improvements in the sector.

•   More Anchor Operator (AOP) preschools are offering Malay and Tamil Language education in preschools, with enhanced training and support for mother tongue language teaching.

Strengthen Early Childhood Professional Growth and Development

•   The National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) was set up to oversee training and professional development for the sector, and welcomed its first batch of teacher trainees in 2019.

•   A Skills Framework for the Early Childhood sector was introduced to provide greater clarity on the career pathways and opportunities for early childhood professionals.

•   Training Awards, a Professional Conversion Programme for Preschool Teachers, Place-and-Train Programme for Educarers and Professional Development Programmes have been rolled out to attract and develop early childhood educators.

•   ECDA launched a National Campaign for the Early Childhood Sector to foster greater respect and recognition of the early childhood profession.

Accessibility

•   More full-day preschool places built, from 90,000 in 2012 to 180,000 today. This will increase to over 200,000 by 2023.

•   Large standalone childcare centres developed in estates with demand for preschool.

•   AOPs are setting up Early Years Centres for tie-up with nearby MOE Kindergartens in estates with demand for preschool.

•   More affordable and customised Early Intervention (EI) programmes introduced in 2019.

Affordability

•   Additional Subsidy introduced in 2013, and enhanced and extended to more middle-income families in 2020.

•   Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS) enhanced in 2015, and again in 2020 with the extension to more middle-income families.

•  Child Development Account (CDA), which can be used to pay for preschool expenses, was enhanced in 2016 with the introduction of the CDA First Step, which does not require parents’ co-savings.

•    Subsidy support enhanced in Apr 2019 for non-working mothers looking for a job or are full-time caregivers to their younger children.

•   Partner Operator (POP) scheme started in 2016, resulting in a fall in median childcare fees in the sector, which have stabilised at that level since then.

•    POP scheme will be extended and enhanced. ECDA launched a call for operators to join the new term of the scheme in Nov 2019, and aims to appoint more centres. When the new term takes effect from Jan 2021, fee caps for childcare and infant care will be lowered. 

•  The Government will enhance the accessibility of affordable, quality preschools by increasing government-supported preschool places from just over 50 percent today to about 80 percent by around 2025.

•   As the capacity of government-supported preschools grows over the medium term, fee caps at government-supported preschools will be lowered so that dual-income families with a child in full-day childcare will pay around the equivalent of primary school fees plus after-school student care fees, which is currently around $300 per month, before means-tested preschool subsidies.



 

Annex B

Support Schemes

Infrastructure Support. The Infrastructure Support Grant (ISG) will support the following categories of operators with infrastructure related costs, subject to eligibility conditions such as those which are related to affordability and quality being met:



Recurrent Support. Non-AOP/non-POP childcare centres or kindergartens may receive recurrent funding support to defray expenses of rental as well as teaching & learning resources, subject to eligibility conditions such as those which are related to affordability and quality being met:

For more details, please visit the following links:
• More information on the Infrastructure Support Grant for SSA childcare centres at HDB OSP sites: https://www.ecda.gov.sg/Operators/Pages/Tender-Sites-for-SSAs.aspx
• More information on all other Support Schemes: https://www.ecda.gov.sg/Operators/Pages/Support-Schemes.aspx


 

Annex C

KidSTART

1. KidSTART provides upstream support for children from low-income families. It guides parents on child development, coordinates and strengthens holistic services for families where needed, and monitors the developmental progress of children from birth onwards. KidSTART was piloted in July 2016, and has benefitted over 1,000 children from low-income families living in the pilot regions of Kreta Ayer/Bukit Merah, Taman Jurong/Boon Lay and Geylang Serai.

2. KidSTART has three key programme components that are set in a child’s familiar setting and designed to cater to the different stages of development.
a. KidSTART Home Visitation Programme (HVP)
What is it? The HVP provides regular home visits to parents (or main caregivers) and their infants, from antenatal stage until the child is three years old. Parents receive support in skills and practical knowledge across areas of child growth, development, health and nutrition. Regular screening of the child’s development and maternal well-being across the antenatal and postnatal stages over a period of 3 years are also conducted to identify and treat issues early. In addition, group-based activities called ‘Group Connect’ are organised for parents to provide peer support and reinforce learning from home visits. When appropriate, the children are also enrolled into preschool.

ECDA partners KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) to jointly deliver the HVP, leveraging strengths across the health and early childhood domains for a multi-disciplinary approach to KidSTART. From 2020, ECDA will also extend the partnership beyond KKH and include National University Hospital (NUH) to deliver the HVP.

Who conducts these visits? Depending on the point of intake, these visits are undertaken either by home visitors from hospitals or ECDA. Home visitors are professionals with qualifications and/or relevant experience in sectors such as health, early childhood or social services. They are supported by other multi-disciplinary professionals, such as pediatricians and nurses, to ensure that the home visitors are able to address the needs of parents and children.

b. KidSTART Groups (Supported Playgroups)
What is it? KidSTART Groups are weekly community-based sessions for parents or main caregivers and their toddlers, aged 1 to 3 years old at the point of entry into KidSTART Groups. These sessions are based on the Supported Playgroups concept6, and help parents and caregivers to build up skills in child development and parent-child bonding through evidence-based curricula of structured and purposeful play. Parents are provided with educational resources to reinforce their learning at home. KidSTART Group facilitators conduct home visits for families who need additional support. Children requiring preschool placement are supported to find an appropriate preschool programme.

Who conducts these sessions? The sessions are conducted by ECDA-trained facilitators who have past experience working with young children and families. ECDA will work closely with community partners to set up KidSTART Groups in the different regions.

c. KidSTART Enhanced Support to Preschools
What is it? Selected Anchor Operator preschools operated by PAP Community Foundation and NTUC First Campus are provided with additional resources to improve engagement with and support for parents, and to improve the child’s school readiness. This may include addressing barriers related to poor preschool attendance and referrals to other support programmes to ensure their children’s developmental needs are addressed. Eligible children who are currently enrolled in these preschools receive KidSTART support.

Who delivers the support?
Child Enabling Executives are deployed to the selected preschools to work closely with the teachers, parents, and local community partners to build a strong network of support for KidSTART children.

6Unlike community playgroups, supported playgroups are playgroups supported by facilitators who are trained in early childhood development and equipped with the skills to engage and support families/parents. The facilitators help parents learn about child development and reduce social isolation.


 
Annex D

Growing Together with KidSTART


1. The Growing Together with KidSTART initiative aims to deepen partnerships between the community and the Government in giving children on the KidSTART programme a good start in life. This is in line with the Singapore Together movement for Singaporeans and the community to partner the Government to jointly develop policies and deliver programmes.

2. Growing Together with KidSTART will provide a more systematic way for corporates and individuals who wish to foster deeper and more sustained giving relationships with KidSTART children and families. They can partner a specific local KidSTART community through regular volunteering and/or contributions, and follow the progress of KidSTART children in the community through regular updates.

3. Since the inception of KidSTART in 2016, EtonHouse Community Fund (ECF) has been contributing to KidSTART by curating and procuring resources such as furniture, playmats, toys and books, for over 25 KidSTART Groups. For the past three years, they have also been providing ‘Boxes of Joy’ containing educational toys and other items for KidSTART children and families during the holiday season. ECF has also connected their parent volunteers to support ECDA in the KidSTART Year-end Celebration in 2018, which was attended by almost 200 parents and children. ECF has further committed to sponsoring Learning Journeys and Resource Kits for KidSTART children and families in 2020 . Since 2016, ECF has pledged a total of $274,000 in cash and in-kind to support KidSTART.

4. In 2018, Prudential Singapore sponsored and co-organised an outreach carnival for KidSTART families in the Jalan Bukit Merah neighbourhood. Since then, Prudential has supported these KidSTART families in various ways. For example, when parents were attending KidSTART sessions with their children, Prudential volunteers helped to provide child-minding services for older siblings that parents had brought along for the sessions. Prudential also introduced the older siblings to Prudential’s financial literacy programme. In 2019, Prudential invited KidSTART families to join their Chinese New Year celebration and sponsored tickets to the Prudential Marina Bay Carnival. In late 2019, as part of Prudential’s partnership with The Boys’ Brigade for the Share-a-gift campaign, they sponsored gift packs containing groceries and child-friendly nutrition items for KidSTART families, benefitting about 500 children.

5. With the official launch of Growing Together with KidSTART in September 2019, more corporations and individuals have stepped forward. For instance,

a. Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore (REDAS) raised and contributed $600,000 to KidSTART.
b. Kimberly-Clark Corporation pledged to provide an estimated 100,000 diapers to KidSTART families over the next three years.
c. Singapore Power Limited provided 30 staff volunteers, also known as SP Heart Workers, at weekly KidSTART Groups sessions in Boon Lay;
d. Singaporeans such as Miss Joanne Lim, Founder of The Right PerspectiveSG, raised $236,000 for KidSTART through her networks.

6. The donations will go towards providing families with essential items such as milk and diapers, transport for children to attend preschool or KidSTART programmes, learning resources and Child Development Account (CDA) top-ups.

7. Around 250 individuals which include corporate volunteers, tertiary students, working professionals and even parents who have graduated from KidSTART, have also signed up to volunteer with KidSTART. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities including the following:

a. Outreach to invite families to join KidSTART
b. Supporting KidSTART families at KidSTART Groups or Group Connect sessions e.g. co-organise/co-create programmes/activities/events/trips for families, child-minding support for older siblings while parents attend KidSTART group sessions with the younger child
c. Supporting KidSTART families as part of the KidSTART Home Visits e.g. befriending, co-organising immunisation visits for children.

8. Interested corporations and individuals can approach ComChest to contribute to KidSTART through monetary donations or regular volunteering via http://www.comchest.sg/growingtogether. We are encouraged by the response and contributions to the Growing Together with KidSTART initiative thus far. With more support from corporations and individuals, we can do more for KidSTART children and their families.​

7The learning journeys will include visits to fun and educational places such as the Singapore Zoo, KidsSTOP at Science Centre as well as the S.E.A. Aquarium. The resource kits will comprise essential educational materials that families will receive upon enrolment onto KidSTART.​​​​

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