Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin
Nominated Member of Parliament
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development:
(a) how does the state protect the welfare of Singaporean/PR children in a situation of family break-down where a citizen father rejects responsibility for them and the foreign mother must either abandon them or take them out of Singapore because her residency and working rights all depended on her spouse; and
(b) what assistance is provided for Singaporean/PR dependents in such families who have to do National Service but are unable to support themselves.
Safeguarding the welfare of our children in a family breakdown is paramount. This is especially so when the family circumstances render the child more vulnerable, such as those which Ms Kuik has raised.
Parents (fathers and mothers) have a joint duty, under law, to maintain and provide for their children. This duty subsists until the child has at least attained the age of 21 years. In situations of family breakdown, both parents still have a duty to provide for their children. If the mother is the parent who has care of the child, and the father is not providing for their child, the mother can apply for maintenance on behalf of the child. This is the case, even if the mother is not a Singaporean/PR.
For divorcing parties, the Divorce Support Specialist Agencies will provide counselling support and help to address the immediate needs of the parties and their children. After the divorce, the Divorce Support Specialist Agencies may refer the family to a Family Service Centre for continued monitoring.
For families who are financially in need, the Government provides a range of financial assistance and social services. The assistance is also available to low-income single parents from transnational families, and dependents of single breadwinners serving NS. These families can approach the Social Service Offices (or SSOs) for an assessment of their needs. The SSOs will work closely with other Government agencies and Family Service Centres to provide and coordinate other forms of assistance and socio-emotional support, if so required. Children in our schools can receive help from the Ministry of Education for free textbooks and uniforms as well as to pay their school fees.
For those in National Service, full-time national servicemen (NSFs) are given a monthly allowance to support their basic expenses. Financial assistance schemes are also available to NSFs whose families face financial hardship.
For foreign wives who are widowed or divorced and have sole custody of young Singaporean children, ICA would generally facilitate their continued stay in Singapore through a renewable LTVP. This would enable them to care for and raise their Singaporean children here.