1 March 2017
Ms K Thanaletchimi
Nominated Member of Parliament
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) what kind of financial and emotional support is given to single fathers who are from low and middle income families, some of whom also care for elderly family members; (b) how can the Ministry better engage the community and single-parent families so that the support can also come from the community at large; and (c) how can pro-active assistance be given to such families instead of them resorting to borrowing money from moneylenders to make ends meet.
The Government recognises that single parents, especially those who are from low- or middle-income families, face additional challenges in caring for their children and elderly parents. Apart from shouldering the cost of caring for their family members alone, they also have to balance work and family commitments. Such challenges are faced by single fathers and mothers alike; correspondingly, the Government provides similar levels of support for both.
Support for parents
Government benefits that support the growth and development of children are given to all children regardless of the marital status of their parents. Children of single parents are eligible for the Medisave Grant for Newborns and MediShield Life coverage, Child Development Account, or CDA benefits, child and infant care subsidies, child and infant care leave, the Foreign Domestic Worker Levy Concession and other education and healthcare subsidies.
On top of basic child and infant care subsidies, low- and middle-income families with working mothers or single fathers can enjoy additional subsidies for centre-based care for their children. Depending on their household income, families receiving the highest tier of subsidies can pay as little as $3 per month for full-day child care service. For half-day kindergarten run by MOE and Anchor Operators, lower-income families can pay as little as $1 a month after subsidies.
Support for caregivers of elderly family members
The Government has also put in place a range of initiatives to support caregivers of elderly family members, including single parents. These include home- and centre-based care services, respite care services, training grants, and subsidies to help defray the costs of care.
Targeted support for lower-income families
Both single fathers and single mothers who require financial assistance to meet their basic needs can approach the Social Service Offices, or SSOs, for help. If they need help with socio-emotional issues, they can approach a Family Service Centre.
Pro-active and upstream measures
My Ministry has also appointed 4 Divorce Support Specialist Agencies, or DSSAs, to support divorcing and divorced parents and enhance child-centricity. Apart from participating in evidence-based programmes designed to help parents better understand the impact of divorce on children, parents who require additional emotional support can receive counselling and casework services at DSSAs. To further strengthen the system of support, my Ministry also started to implement the KidSTART pilot programme in July last year. This programme will proactively identify low-income and vulnerable children aged 6 and below, and these may include children of single fathers. KidSTART will help to provide them with early access to health, learning, and development support, and monitor their progress during their early years.
Role of the community
Aside from the Government, community agencies such as Centre for Fathering and Focus on the Family also provide support to parents, including single-parent families. Self-help groups have developed programmes and schemes for single parents, especially low-income single-parent families. Such programmes may include workshops, personal coaching, counselling and family bonding activities. Through peer support programmes, single parent families are also roped in to support others going through similar challenges.
In terms of financial support for the low-income, society-at-large has also been contributing actively. One example is the OCBC starter scheme, where OCBC directly contributes funds into the child’s CDA when parents save. The Government then matches the combined amount, thereby helping low-income parents to multiply their child’s CDA savings1. Another example is the close partnership between all 5 CDCs and NTUC FairPrice to help low-income families with the purchase of milk powder for their children.
Providing support for the vulnerable in society is a priority for the Government. We will continue to work at improving the delivery of social assistance and services, to build a stronger social safety net for Singaporeans, including single parents.
1For example, if a parent saves $50, OCBC will contribute $100. The Government will then match $150. As a result, from a base of $50, a child from a low-income family will have $300 in the CDA.