Ms Raeesah Khan asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) what are the obstacles preventing application of tax rebates and baby bonuses to single parents; and (b) how can these obstacles be overcome, bearing in mind the need to provide support for young children especially given the financial stress imposed by the pandemic.
1. Our Marriage and Parenthood (M&P) policies seek to promote and strengthen the institution of family and encourage parenthood within marriage.
2. Nevertheless, we recognise the challenges that single unwed parents face in having to single-handedly raise their children, and the likely added financial stress during this pandemic. We take a two-pronged approach to assist single unwed parents.
3. First, benefits to support the growth and development of children are given to parents of all Singaporean children, regardless of their marital status. Second, we provide targeted, customised support to address their financial and other needs holistically, even more so in this pandemic.
4. Let me explain. Our approach is to enable all Singaporean children to receive Government benefits that support their caregiving, growth and development, regardless of their parents’ marital status. For instance, since 2016, we have extended the Child Development Account benefits to Singaporean children of single unwed parents, including the $3,000 First Step Grant and matched co-savings from Government. Families can benefit from up to $6,000 and $9,000 in Government contributions to the CDA for their first and second child, and even more for subsequent children.
5. Next in 2017, we also extended 16 weeks of Government-Paid Maternity Leave to single unwed mothers. Working parents (both wed and unwed) are also entitled to 6 days of paid Childcare Leave per year for children aged below 7 years, or 2 days for children aged 7 to 12 years.
6. Lastly, schemes that benefit all Singaporean children such as subsidies for education, healthcare, childcare and infant care, and the Foreign Domestic Worker Levy Concession have been extended to them over the years. A Singaporean child will receive over $180,000 of education subsidies in total by the time he turns 16. This includes about $50,000 in Government subsidies over five years when they enrol in a full-day childcare programme with one of the Anchor Operators. These are available to all Singaporean children borne to parents wed or unwed.
7. Together with our tripartite partners, we launched a new Tripartite Standard on Work-Life Harmony earlier this year, which encourages employers to not just provide flexible work arrangements, but also other measures that help employees better balance work and family commitments, like enhancing leave policies and providing suitable work arrangements for those with family caregiving needs.
8. Single unwed parents requiring support with their basic living expenses can approach our Social Service Offices (SSOs). Our SSOs will assess their households’ needs and circumstances, and provide ComCare financial assistance if they meet the criteria. Our SSOs may also refer them to other Government agencies and community partners for further support.
9. Family Service Centres (FSCs) also work with single unwed parents and their children to address their family-related and/or social-emotional needs, and coordinate support from other agencies should they require additional support services, such as childcare services or employment assistance.
10. As the COVID-19 pandemic has affected businesses and livelihoods of Singaporeans, we have also introduced schemes during this period, such as the COVID-19 Recovery Grant (CRG) and COVID-19 Recovery Grant – Temporary (CRG-T), to assist lower- to middle-income employees and Self-Employed Persons (SEPs) who are facing involuntary job loss, No-Pay Leave or significant income loss.
11. Taken together, these efforts would support single unwed parents not just during the pandemic, but in their parenthood journey as a whole. We will continue to review our policies to better support single unwed parents in raising their children.
12. The Baby Bonus Cash Gift is intended to encourage parenthood within marriage. The Parenthood Tax Rebate and Working Mother’s Child Relief (WMCR) are also intended to support parenthood within marriage and to encourage married mothers to continue working after childbirth. These schemes are thus not extended to single unwed parents.