Ministry of Social and Family Development: Rental housing estates trial night-time childcare services
FEB 28 2021
胡洁梅 Hu Jiemei
The Ministry of Social and Family Development assessed the needs of 650 low-income families, and community partners have also reflected that night childcare services may be helpful to these families. The authorities will therefore study the possibility of piloting night-time childcare services at a ComLink site to better understand the demand for the services and whether they are sustainable.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development will study the possibility of piloting night-time childcare services in rental housing estates to assist low-income families.
The Minister of Social and Family Development and the Second Minister of Health, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, pointed this out in a written parliamentary reply to Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng (PAP-Nee Soon GRC) a few days ago regarding the need for night-time childcare services.
In the response, he said that, in line with the ComLink project, the Ministry of Social and Family Development engaged 650 low-income families to understand their needs, and community partners have also indicated that night-time childcare may be helpful to these families. The authorities will therefore study the possibility of piloting night-time childcare services at a ComLink site to better assess the demand and sustainability of the services.
The ComLink project has been piloted in rental housing areas since last year, with the aim to provide more comprehensive support for low-income families with children through collaboration across agencies. The four ComLink pilot sites include Boon Lay, Jalan Kukoh, Kembangan-Chai Chee and Marsiling.
Mr Masagos pointed out that all childcare centres are required to operate from 7 am to 7 pm on weekdays and 7 am to 2 pm on Saturdays to meet the needs of working parents. However, childcare centres can also determine whether to extend service hours based on the needs and resources. Currently, more than 40 childcare centres are open beyond 7 pm on weekdays, accounting for about 3 percent of the total number of childcare centres.
He said, “The current arrangement meets the needs of most parents. For those working shifts or on weekends, many of them arrange for other caregivers, such as grandparents and relatives, to help out. Nevertheless, we understand that some families may face difficulties in making such caregiving arrangements.”
Morning Star Community Services, a charity organisation, has provided low-income families with free childcare services for four hours on weekdays since 2016, supporting students between the ages of 6 and14 years with academic and social values education activities. Due to increased demand, in addition to the three existing CareNights centres, the organisation has also launched services in Agape Village since this year, and has helped about 180 people so far.
In an interview, Ms Jagdeep Kaur, head of programmes and volunteer management at Morning Star, said that low-income families face many challenges, especially due to the pandemic. Some parents have had to undertake two jobs for a livelihood, and working hours are irregular.
“Night-time childcare services are believed to help low-income families solve the problem of childcare arrangements. I hope these families can enjoy the services at low prices or even for free. Knowing that their children are in a safe environment, parents can work in peace. Children can also receive guidance in safe environment and develop their social-emotional learning and other skills.”
Parent Yang Xiaoqing (36 years old, manager) believes that night-time childcare can meet the needs of some parents who have to do shift work and do not have relatives or friends to help. “But night-time care services are not common, and the charges are not cheap. If the service aims to support low-income families, the charges must be kept low. I am fortunate to have my mother’s help. Sometimes because of work, I can’t make it to the childcare centre to pick up my child before 7 pm, but I can ask my mother to do it on my behalf.”
Li Chenghui, the Chief Operating Officer of preschool My Little Campus, pointed out that if the service hours are extended, the organisation would have to consider whether the centre has sufficient manpower, as well as work procedures and safety factors. Furthermore, if a child is not exposed to the home environment for a long period, this may not be beneficial to the child’s physical and mental development.