【国会发言】新加坡家庭发展部政务部长孙雪玲回复议员:托儿费最低3元,每个家庭都能负担得起学前教育

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2024年3月6日,新加坡内政部兼社会及家庭发展部政务部长孙雪玲在国会就婴幼儿保育和学前教育问题,回答相关议员的问询。

 

以下内容为新加坡眼根据国会英文资料翻译整理: 

共建关爱包容社会

(幼儿托管、学前教育方面)

 

主席:政务部长孙雪玲。

 

内政部兼社会及家庭发展部政务部长孙雪玲:主席先生,我感谢各位议员提出的意见。

 

政府致力于为每个儿童提供良好的人生开端。学前教育在支持儿童发展方面发挥着重要作用,同时也满足了家长的照料需求。这是我们实现“齐心为了家”(Made For Families)愿景的重要组成部分。 

议员杨涴淩女士和林志蔚副教授询问,我们将如何使学前教育为家庭所接受和负担得起。政府向主要业者和伙伴机构提供资金,确保它们不超过收费上限,同时提供资助以提高教育质量。政府还为所有家长提供基本补贴,并为符合条件的家庭提供额外补贴。目前,低收入家庭在“主要业者”学前教育机构的托儿费最低为每月3新元。这种全面解决学前教育负担问题的方法,即保持政府支持学前教育机构的低收费,同时为家长提供托儿补贴,比发放学券更有效。 

 

未来几年,我们将进一步提高学前教育的可负担性。正如黄循财副总理在预算报告中宣布的那样,我们将在2025年进一步将“主要业者”和“伙伴经营者”的托儿费上限降低40新元。扣除补贴后,月收入为8,000新元的中等收入工作家庭从2025年起在 “主要业者 “学前教育机构支付的全日制托儿费将为208新元,比现在减少约18%。

 

我们将在2026年进行最后一次削减。这将有助于我们实现2019年国庆日集会的承诺,即在接受经济情况调查补贴之前,入读“主要业者”学前教育机构的家庭所支付的费用与小学和课后学生托管的费用相近。我们还将按计划增加政府资助的学前教育名额,到2025年左右,80%的学龄前儿童可在政府资助的学前教育机构就读,而目前这一比例超过65%。

 

杨益财先生询问,我们将如何继续吸引和留住幼儿教育工作者,以支持该行业的发展。教育工作者的福祉对我们非常重要。我们的教育工作者致力于培养儿童,在提高幼儿保育和教育质量方面发挥着至关重要的作用。

 

幼儿培育署(ECDA)一直在增强幼儿教育工作者的职业主张。我们在2021年公布了持续专业发展路线图,在2022年公布了领导力发展框架和薪酬改善措施。我们将继续监督和审查,确保教育工作者的薪酬保持竞争力。

 

我们还在改善教育工作者的工作条件和福利。从2024年起,与小学类似,教师节和儿童节将被指定为学前假期。现有的六天学前班停课日也被重新定位为“专业发展日”(Development Days),让教育工作者有专门的时间专注于个人和团队发展。从2025年起,托儿所不再需要在周六营业。这样,学前班教师每周就多了半天的休息时间。

 

为了吸引更多新加坡人加入幼儿教育行业,幼儿培育署将于2024年重新启动“塑造我们的明天”活动,以加强公众对幼儿教育行业的了解,并意识到幼儿教育工作者是一个受人尊敬的职业。自2018年启动以来,幼教工作者的人数增加了30%以上,达到25000人。

 

陈浍敏女士还建议对学前教育认证框架的流程进行审查,以减轻教育工作者的工作量。此认证框架旨在指导学前教育机构提高其质量,例如在教学和学习以及中心的行政和管理方面。经过学前教育认证的学前教育机构数量逐年增加,目前已达1000所,占学前教育机构总数的58%。

 

幼儿培育署正在对新加坡学前教育认证框架(SPARK)进行审查,并计划在2025年推出更新的SPARK认证,为我们的学前教育设定新的质量标准。为了减轻教育工作者的工作量,我们正在探索各种方法,以保持学前教育认证所需的工作易于管理,例如简化要求和利用技术来减少所涉及的文件和行政工作。

 

陈佩玲女士谈到了学前教育机构的儿童安全问题。学前教育机构必须为儿童提供一个安全的培育环境。幼儿培育署确保我们的教育工作者具备必要的资格和技能,能够有效、安全地照顾和教育儿童。除了基本的筛查要求和健康声明外,所有教育工作者都必须满足学术、专业和语言方面的要求,才能获得儿培育的认证,并被派往我们的学前教育机构工作。作为这些要求的一部分,教育工作者必须接受培训课程,学习课堂管理策略。

 

儿培育还定期更新教师培训课程。最近,我们用更具体的例子来说明什么是不恰当的行为,从而更清晰地指导我们的教育工作者。此外,教育部门还定期举办了简报会和通告,向教育工作者介绍最新的研究成果和教学法。

 

如果经营者玩忽职守,幼儿培育署将对其处以监管罚款和处罚。如果个别教师有违法行为,警方将根据儿童与青少年法令(Children and Young Persons Act)和/或《刑法典》对其提出指控和处罚。幼儿培育署的权力是通过《学前教育发展中心法令》(ECDC Act实施的。儿培育将审查学前教育发展中心法令》(ECDC Act目前规定的执法手段和罚款,并将毫不犹豫地通过修改立法来加强这些手段,以便对违规经营者进行处罚。

 

我们向家长们保证,如果有证据表明经营者和/或教育者有违规行为,儿培育和警方将立即展开调查,暂停有可能伤害儿童教育者的工作,并将其绳之以法。家长如果怀疑自己的孩子受到不当管理,应向儿培育和警方报告,以便迅速开展调查,并采取适当的措施。

 

在“新加坡携手前进”活动中,我们也听到许多新加坡人分享他们对子女的爱和期望。与此同时,一些人也分享了他们在养育子女过程中遇到的困难和焦虑,尤其是婴儿的父母。许多家长解释说,最具有挑战性的时期是最初的18个月,因为家长要适应一个新的生活阶段,既要照顾婴儿,又要兼顾工作。

 

正如马善高部长提到的,对于三岁及以上的儿童,学前班可以说是最好的选择,既能满足家长的照顾需求,又能支持儿童的全面发展。对于三岁以下的儿童,重要的是让他们与照顾者建立培养关系,并让照顾者对他们的需求做出回应。

 

如今,大多数新加坡父母更愿意扮演这一角色,亲自照顾婴儿或依靠家庭成员的帮助。杨益财先生和黄玲玲女士询问我们如何更好地支持父母照顾婴儿。正如“新加坡携手前进”运动所述,政府将考虑如何进一步增加带薪育儿假。

 

目前,大约每五名婴儿中就有一名在这些婴儿护理中心注册,我们计划到2030年将护理中心为基础的婴儿护理服务名额增加约70%,即增加9000个名额,让更多家长可以借助这种护理方式。为了配合这些努力,政府将与服务提供商合作,在2024年下半年开展为期三年的试点,提供价格合理、可靠的婴儿托管服务。这将为父母提供另一种护理选择。

 

育儿嫂(我们中的一些人可能将其称为“保姆”)并不是一个新概念。上世纪七八十年代,这种服务在新加坡较为普遍。有些保姆在自己家里照顾几个孩子,有些则到别人家里照顾孩子。如今,这种情况已不那么普遍,因为家长可能不知道到哪里去寻找可信赖的育儿嫂,或者他们可能会发现,与婴儿护理中心等其他护理方式相比,育儿嫂的费用相对较高。

 

去年,我在对丹麦、法国和英国进行工作访问时了解到,这些国家已经制定了一些要求,例如对育儿嫂进行背景调查,并为家长提供财政支持,例如补贴,使家长更容易获得儿童保育服务。这样,家长就可以根据自己的照料需求和偏好,更加灵活地选择最适合自己的方式。例如,父母可能更喜欢在工作时间内有一个更有条理的环境。这样,他们就可以为婴儿选择婴儿护理中心。而那些喜欢在家庭环境中接受更灵活的时间或更个性化护理的家长,则可以选择婴儿托管服务。

 

因此,我们将开展试点工作,指定幼儿托管机构,并与他们合作在新加坡扩大幼儿托管服务。根据试点计划,每名幼儿托管人每次最多可在家中或社区场所托管三名婴儿。社区空间(如社区中心)将设在婴儿护理需求较高的地区,以便家长能够方便地获得保育服务。家长还可以更灵活地与护理员讨论他们的保育偏好和要求。

 

为了确保家庭能够负担得起婴儿托管服务,幼儿培育署将向指定运营商提供资金,以使在工作时间使用该服务的父母负担得起费用。我们的目标是使父母在托儿服务上的费用,与中等收入家庭在”主要业者“学前教育机构支付的婴儿护理费用相似。我们还将扩大儿童发展账户的使用,以进一步支付该试点下的托儿费用。

 

我们知道,安全是父母在决定婴儿护理安排时的一个关键考虑因素。为了让家长在此次试点中更有保障,幼儿培育署将对运营商和保姆进行背景调查,并要求运营商满足一定的服务要求。这些服务要求包括:评估保姆的适合性和住所;制定儿童安全护理法和保姆责任准则;向家长披露保姆的资料;建立事件管理流程;确保保姆接受基本婴儿护理、急救培训以及食品安全和卫生等领域的必要培训。

 

幼儿培育署还将与经营者合作,共同制定行业标准。这包括规定什么是安全的托儿环境,以及经营者和托儿所各自的责任。这将确保各指定经营者的基本服务标准,并有助于提升托儿行业的整体水平。

 

通过试点,我们可以评估家长对幼儿托管的接受程度。由于这是一项新的试点项目,我们已邀请家长、幼儿托管人和幼儿托管机构参与,听取他们的意见,以帮助我们完善各项参数。我们将继续开展此类活动,并在2024年下半年公布更多细节。

 

颜添宝先生询问我们将如何支持这些家长,帮助他们的孩子充分发挥潜能。

 

有发育障碍的儿童有不同的独特需求,需要不同类型的支持。一些儿童可以在幼儿园得到支持,而另一些儿童则可能需要在提供婴幼儿早期干预计划 (EIPIC)的中心接受更专业的干预。

 

国际研究还表明,父母最有能力在孩子的日常生活中植入与社交和情感技能相关的干预措施。要做好这项工作,家长需要掌握在家中提供早期干预支持的技能。因此,我们将推出 “婴幼儿早期干预–关爱”(EIPIC-Care)试点项目,这是一项针对两到三岁有发展需求儿童的看护者的培训计划。在为期六个月的课程中,看护者将通过小组工作坊和个别辅导课程,向专业人士学习如何在家中为孩子的发展提供支持。

 

幼儿培育署计划在2024年下半年推出“婴幼儿早期干预计划—关爱”试点项目。对于需要更多支持的儿童,我们一直在增加政府资助名额,以满足需要中度至高度早期干预支持的儿童的需求。2023年,我们将启动13个由私营机构运营的婴幼儿早期干预计划—关爱中心和2个婴幼儿早期干预计划中心,以增加1200个名额。这比2022年增加了26%。

 

2024年,我们将再推出四家早期干预中心,增加1500个名额。我们将继续扩大政府资助的名额,到2027年,为80%需要中高水平早期干预的儿童提供服务,比2022年的60%有所提高。这将有助于缩短进入早期干预中心的整体等待时间,使有发展需求的儿童能够及时得到支持。

 

为了向有特殊需要的大龄儿童家庭提供更有力的经济支持,黄循财副总理在预算报告中宣布,将使特殊教育学校和特殊学生护理中心的费用更能为家庭所承受。我们将降低所支付的费用,使自付费用占家庭收入的比例更接近发育正常的同龄人。举例来说,每月家庭收入为6000新元的家庭,自付的幼儿中心费用会减少三分之一,由500新元减至约340新元。

 

潘勤群女士询问恢复性司法在配偶暴力案件中的应用。当家庭走过人生旅途中的各个里程碑时,我们希望建立稳固的家庭,确保父母有能力为子女建立安全的庇护所。

 

遗憾的是,当家庭暴力发生时,有些家庭并不安全。为了加强对暴力幸存者的保护,我们去年在国会提出了《家庭暴力(修正)法案》(the Family Violence (Amendment) Bill) 。这个修正法案还加强了政府对施暴者进行改造的权力,这对于在幸存者获得保护和安全后帮助家庭和解至关重要。

 

我们的社会服务从业人员还为面临伤害风险或遭受暴力的家庭提供支持,以解决使用暴力的根本原因,并与幸存者和施暴者合作,尽可能治愈和恢复关系。对这些家庭的支持包括咨询。在确保安全的情况下,家庭成员(包括儿童)可以参加这些辅导课程,以治愈创伤并恢复家庭关系。

 

但是,如果在短期内无法恢复家庭关系,我们会毫不犹豫地采取坚决措施。这包括行使法律的全部权力,将肇事者绳之以法,并确保安全,为幸存者提供保护。主席先生,正面我将用普通话发言。

 

(普通话): 家庭是我们社会的基石。我们希望让父母和准父母在照顾子女时更加放心。我们希望为每个孩子提供一个良好的人生开端。这是我们实现 新加坡”齐心为了家 “愿景的重要组成部分。

 

我们将继续为家庭提供更方便、更负担得起的学前教育。2025 年,我们将进一步把主要业者机构和伙伴机构的托儿费上限降低 40 新元。我们将在2026年进行最后一次下调。我们还将增加政府支持的学前教育名额,到2025年,使80%的学龄前儿童都能在政府支持的学前教育机构接受教育。从2025年到2030年,我们将继续保持这个80%的比例。

 

我们还从家长那里了解到,孩子在婴幼儿时期是最具挑战性的时期。为了更好地支持家长照顾婴儿,政府将与服务提供商合作,推出婴儿托管服务,为家长提供另一种照顾选择。我们将提供资金,使家长能够负担得起托儿服务。为确保婴幼儿得到妥善照顾,幼儿保育署将进行背景调查,并要求经营者符合服务要求,以确保婴幼儿的安全。幼儿保育署还将与经营者合作,共同制定行业标准。这包括规定什么是安全的托儿环境,以及经营者和托儿所各自的责任。

 

有发展需求儿童的家长也需要更多的支持,以帮助他们的孩子充分发挥潜能。要做好这项工作,家长需要掌握在家中提供早期干预支持的技能。因此,我们将推出一项 “早期干预–关爱”(EIPIC-Care)试点项目,这是一项针对两到三岁有发展需求儿童的看护者的培训计划。对于有更高需求的儿童,我们将继续增加政府资助的名额,以满足需要中高水平早期干预支持的儿童的需求。

 

(用英语):正如马善高部长所分享的,我们所有人都必须发挥自己的作用,以实现我们的愿景,即建设一个关爱家庭的社会和一个 “齐心为了家 “的新加坡。

 

我们看到许多志愿者与专业人员一起为有需要的家庭提供支持。玛莎(Marsha Hernatasha)女士和齐斯蒂娜Qistina Mohamed Nasir)女士是朋友,她们是幼儿培育辅导计划KidSTART)园艺奇观项目的义工。作为义工,她们负责接待 KidSTART 家庭、包装和分发礼品袋,并在讲故事环节中与孩子们互动。玛莎女士和齐斯蒂娜女士认为,志愿服务是做善事和回馈幼儿家庭的好机会。我们将 2024 年定为 “欢庆义工年”,让我们感谢并认可志愿者的贡献、努力和牺牲。

 

我们致力于支持我们的父母和准父母,让他们放心,每个孩子在新加坡都能有一个良好的人生开端,并能公平地获得人生进步的机会。

 

新加坡家庭发展部政务部长孙雪玲回复议员:托儿费最低3元,每个家庭都能负担得起学前教育

以下是英文质询内容:

 

COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY – HEAD I (MINISTRY OF SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT)

 

(Building a caring and inclusive society together)

The Chairman: Minister of State Sun Xueling.

The Minister of State for Social and Family Development (Ms Sun Xueling): Mr Chairman, I thank Members for their views.

The Government is committed to providing every child with a good start in life. Preschools play an important role in supporting our children’s development while meeting parents’ caregiving needs. This is an important part of our vision in realising a Singapore Made for Families.

Ms Yeo Wan Ling and Assoc Prof Jamus Lim asked how we will make preschools accessible and affordable for families. The Government provides funding to Anchor and Partner Operators to ensure that they keep within fee caps, while investing in quality improvements. The Government also provides all parents with basic subsidies, as well as additional subsidies for eligible families. Currently, lower-income families can pay as low as $3 per month for childcare in an Anchor Operator preschool. This comprehensive approach to preschool affordability, where we keep fees charged for Government-supported preschools low and provide childcare subsidies to parents, is more effective than giving vouchers.

We will further enhance preschool affordability in the coming years. As announced by Deputy Prime Minister Wong in his Budget speech, we will further reduce childcare fee caps at Anchor and Partner Operators by $40 in 2025. After subsidies, a middle-income working household with monthly income of $8,000, will pay $208 for full-day childcare at an Anchor Operator preschool from 2025, around 18% less from what they pay today.

We will make a final reduction in 2026. This will help us to achieve our 2019 National Day Rally commitment where families enrolled in Anchor Operators pay similar expenses to that of primary school and after-school student care, before means-tested subsidies. We are also on track to increasing the number of Government-supported preschool places so that 80% of preschoolers can have a place in a Government-supported preschool by around 2025, up from over 65% today.

Mr Melvin Yong asked how we will continue to attract and retain early childhood educators to support the sector. The well-being of our educators is important to us. Our educators dedicate themselves to the nurturing of our children and play a critical role in driving the quality of care and education for our young children.

ECDA has been enhancing the career proposition of early childhood educators. We announced the Continuing Professional Development Roadmap in 2021 and the Leadership Development Framework as well as salary improvements in 2022. We will continue to monitor and review to ensure educators’ salaries remain competitive.

We are also improving the working conditions and well-being of educators. From 2024, similar to Primary Schools, Teacher’s Day and Children’s Day will be designated as preschool holidays. The existing six days of preschool closure have also been repositioned as “Development Days” to give educators dedicated time to focus on their individual and team development. From 2025, childcare centres are no longer required to operate on Saturdays. With this, preschool teachers will have an additional half-day of rest every week.

To attract more Singaporeans to the sector, ECDA is relaunching the “Shape Our Tomorrow” campaign in 2024 to strengthen the public’s understanding of the early childhood (EC) sector and recognise EC educators as a respected profession. Since its launch in 2018, the number of EC educators has increased by more than 30% to 25,000.

Ms Carrie Tan also suggested the SPARK certification process be reviewed to reduce educators’ workload. SPARK is an accreditation framework to guide preschools in raising their quality, such as in the areas of teaching and learning and administration and management of centres. The number of SPARK-certified preschools has been growing over the years and stands at 1,000 preschools or 58% of the sector today.

ECDA is reviewing SPARK and plans to roll out the refreshed SPARK certification in 2025 to set the next bound of quality for our preschools. To reduce workload on educators, we are exploring various ways to keep the work required for SPARK certification manageable, such as streamlining requirements and tapping on technology to reduce the documentation and administraton work involved.

Ms Tin Pei Ling touched on child safety in preschools. Preschools must be a safe and nurturing environment for our children. ECDA ensures that our educators have the necessary qualifications and skills to effectively and safely care for and educate children. Besides basic screening requirements and health declarations, all educators must meet the academic, professional and language requirements before they can be certified by ECDA and deployed in our preschools. As part of these requirements, educators must undergo training programmes where they learn classroom management strategies.

ECDA also regularly updates the training curriculum of the teachers. We have recently made it clearer with more specific examples on what constitutes inappropriate behaviour to guide our educators. There are also regular sector-wide briefings and circulars to update educators on the latest research and teaching pedagogies.

Where there is negligence from operators, ECDA will take them to task with regulatory fines and levers. Where individual teachers have committed offences, they will be charged by the Police and punished under the Children and Young Persons Act and/or the Penal Code. ECDA’s powers are enforced through the Early Childhood Development Centres Act. ECDA will review enforcement levers and fines currently stipulated through the ECDC Act and will not hesitate to enhance the levers through legislative changes to take errant operators to task. We are working on this right now even as I speak.

3.00 pm

We give our assurance to parents that where there is evidence that operators and/or educators have been errant, ECDA and the Police will commence investigations immediately, suspend educators who are in a position to harm children and take them to justice. Parents who suspect that their child has been subjected to child mismanagement should report to ECDA and the Police, so that investigations can be swiftly carried out, investigations are not compromised and due process can be taken.

During the Forward SG engagements, we also have heard many Singaporeans share their love and aspirations for their children. At the same time, some have also shared about the struggles and anxieties that they faced in raising their children – especially from parents of infants and parents of children with developmental needs. Many parents explained that the most challenging period was during the first 18 months, as parents are adapting to a new phase of life to care for an infant while juggling work responsibilities.

As mentioned by Minister Masagos, for children aged three and above, preschools can be the best option to meet parents’ caregiving needs while supporting the child’s holistic development. For children below three years, what is important is for them to build nurturing relationships with significant caregivers and for caregivers to be responsive towards their needs.

Today, most Singaporean parents prefer to play this role and care for infants themselves or rely on the help of family members. Mr Melvin Yong and Ms Ng Ling Ling have asked how we can better support parents in caring for their infants. As mentioned in the Forward SG report, the Government will consider how paid parental leave can be further increased. Currently, around one in five infants are enrolled in infant care centres. We will continue to ramp up centre-based infant care.

Currently, around one in five infants are enrolled in these infant care centres and we plan to increase centre-based infant care places by about 70%, or 9,000 more places by 2030 so that more parents can rely on this care option. To complement these efforts, the Government will work with service providers to launch a three-year pilot in the second half of 2024 to provide affordable and reliable infant childminding services. This will be yet another caregiving option for parents.

Childminders, some of us may know them as “nannies” are not a new concept. They were more common in Singapore in the 1970s and 1980s. Some childminders look after a few children in their own homes while others travel to a family’s home to look after the child. They are less common today, as parents may be unsure of where to look for trusted childminders or they may find childminding relatively more expensive as compared to other caregiving options, such as infant care centres.

Last year, in a work visit to Denmark, France and the UK, I learnt that these countries have put in place requirements, such as background checks on the childminders and financial support to parents, such as subsidies, to make childminding more accessible to parents. Parents can then have greater flexibility to choose what is best for them in terms of their caregiving needs and preferences. For example, parents may prefer a more structured setting during working hours. They may then opt for infant care centres for their infants. Those who prefer more flexible hours or more individualised care in a home-setting may for opt for infant childminding.

We will thus launch a pilot and appoint childminding operators and work with them to expand infant childminding services in Singapore. Under the pilot, each childminder will be allowed to care for up to three infants at any one time, at their homes or at a community space. Community spaces, such as community centres, will be in areas of high infant care demand so that parents can conveniently access childminding services. Parents also have more flexibility to discuss their care preferences and requirements with the childminder.

 To ensure that infant childminding services are affordable to families, ECDA will provide funding to appointed operators to keep the out-of-pocket expenses affordable for parents who use the service for their infants during typical working hours on weekdays. We aim to make parents’ expenses for childminding services similar to what a middle-income family pays for infant care at their Anchor Operator. We will also extend the usage of CDA to further defray the cost of childminding under the pilot.

We understand that the safety is a key consideration for parents when deciding the care arrangements for their infants. To give parents more assurance under this pilot, ECDA will conduct background checks on operators and childminders and require operators to meet certain service requirements. These service requirements include: (a) assessing the suitability and homes of the childminders; (b) putting in place guidelines for child-safe practices and responsibilities of childminders; (c) disclosing childminders’ profile to parents; (d) establishing processes for incident management; and (e) ensuring that childminders undergo required training in areas, such as basic infant care, first aid training and food safety and hygiene.

 ECDA will also work with operators to co-develop industry standards. This includes laying out what constitutes a safe childminding environment and the respective responsibilities of operators and childminders. This will ensure baseline service standards across the appointed operators and help to uplift the childminding sector in general.

The pilot will allow us to assess the receptiveness of parents to infant childminding. As this is a new pilot, we have engaged parents, childminders and childminding operators to hear their views to help us refine the parameters. We will continue such engagements and announce more details in the second-half of 2024.

Mr Gan Thiam Poh asked how we will support parents of children with developmental needs to help their child reach their full potential.

Children with developmental challenges have diverse and unique needs and require different types of support. Some can be supported in their preschools, while others may require more specialised interventions at centres providing Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC).

International studies have also shown that parents are in the best position to embed intervention related to social and emotional skills in their children’s daily lives. For parents to do this well, they will need to be equipped with the skills to provide early intervention support at home. This is why we will be introducing an EIPIC-Care pilot, a training programme for caregivers of two- to three-year-olds with developmental needs. During the six-month programme, caregivers will learn from professionals through group workshops and individual coaching sessions on how to support their child’s development at home.

ECDA plans to launch the EIPIC-Care pilot in the second half of 2024. For children who require more support, we have been increasing the number of Government-funded places for children requiring medium to high levels of early intervention support. In 2023, we launched 13 EIPIC-P centres, which are operated by private providers; and two EIPIC centres, to increase our capacity by 1,200 places. This is a 26% increase from 2022.

In 2024, we will launch four more early intervention centres and increase our capacity by 1,500 places. We will continue to expand our Government-funded places to serve 80% of children requiring medium to high levels of early intervention by 2027, up from 60% in 2022. This will help to reduce overall wait times for enrolment into an early intervention centre so that children with developmental needs can receive timely support.

To provide stronger financial support for families of older children with special needs, Deputy Prime Minister Wong announced in his Budget speech that we will make Special Education (SPED) Schools and Special Student Care Centres (SSCC) more affordable for families. We will reduce the fees paid to bring the proportion of household income paid for out-of-pocket expenses closer to that of their typically developing peers. To illustrate, families with a monthly household income of $6,000 will see one-third decrease in their out-of-pocket expenses paid for SSCC, from $500 to around $340.

Ms Hazel Poa asked on the use of restorative justice in cases of spousal violence. As families navigate various milestones in their life journey, we want to build strong families and ensure parents are equipped to build safe havens for their children.

Unfortunately, some families are not safe when violence happens at home. To strengthen protection for survivors of violence, we moved the Family Violence (Amendment) Bill in Parliament last year. These provisions also strengthen powers for the Government to rehabilitate perpetrators, which is crucial to helping families reconcile once protection and safety for survivors have been achieved.

Our social service practitioners also support families at risk of harm or who are experiencing violence to address the root causes for the use of violence and work with the survivor and perpetrator to heal and restore relationships where possible. Support for these families would include counselling. Family members, including children, may attend these counselling sessions to achieve healing and restoration of family relationships where it is safe to do so.

However, we will not hesitate to take firm measures when such restoration is not possible in the immediate term. This includes exercising the full powers of the law to take the perpetrators to task and to ensure the safety and protection of the survivors. Mr Chairman, in Mandarin, please.

(In Mandarin): Families are the bedrock of our society. We want to give parents and parents-to-be greater assurance in the caregiving of their children. We want to provide every child with a good start in life. This is an important part of our vision in realising a Singapore Made For Families.

We will continue to make preschools more accessible and affordable for families. We will further reduce childcare fee caps at Anchor and Partner Operators by $40 in 2025. We will make a final reduction in 2026. We will also increase the number of Government-supported preschool places, so that 80% of preschoolers can have a place in a Government-supported preschool by 2025. We will continue to maintain this 80% from 2025 to 2030.

We have also heard from parents that the most challenging period was during their child’s infancy. To better support parents in the care of infants, the Government will work with service providers to launch an infant childminding service to provide another caregiving option for parents. We will provide funding to keep the childminding service affordable for parents. To ensure that the infants are well cared for, ECDA will conduct background checks and require operators to meet service requirements to ensure safety of the infants. ECDA will also work with operators to co-develop industry standards. This includes laying out what constitutes a safe childminding environment and the respective responsibilities of operators and childminders.

Parents of children with development needs also require greater support to help their child reach their full potential. For parents to do this well, they will need to be equipped with the skills to provide early intervention support at home. This is why we will be introducing an EIPIC-Care pilot, a training programme for caregivers of two- to three-year-olds with developmental needs. For children with higher needs, we will continue to increase the number of Government-funded places for children requiring medium- to high levels of early intervention support.

(In English): As Minister Masagos shared, all of us must play our part to realise our vision of a family-friendly society and a Singapore Made for Families.

We have seen many volunteers who have worked alongside professionals to support our families in need. Ms Marsha Hernatasha and Ms Qistina Mohamed Nasir are friends who are volunteers together for KidSTART Garden Wonders. As volunteers, they welcome KidSTART families, pack and distribute goody bags and engage the children during the storytelling sessions. Ms Marsha and Ms Qistina sees volunteering as an opportunity to do something good and give back to families with young children. As we dedicate 2024 as the Year of Celebrating Volunteers, let us appreciate and recognise the contributions, effort and sacrifice of our volunteers.

We are committed in supporting our parents and parents-to-be, so that they are assured that every child can have a good start in life in Singapore and that they have fair access to opportunities to progress in life.

 

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新加坡家庭发展部政务部长孙雪玲回复议员:托儿费最低3元,每个家庭都能负担得起学前教育

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