- Committee of Supply 2023: KidSTART goes nationwide to offer the programme to all eligible families; to support 80% of eligible children in lower-income families, starting from the children born 2023
Speech By Ms Sun Xueling, Minister Of State For Ministry Of Social And Family Development And Ministry Of Home Affairs, At Committee Of Supply 2023
“SUPPORTING FAMILIES BY GIVING EVERY CHILD A GOOD START”
Uplifting Children from Lower-Income Families
17. This support will begin from the early years, which are critical for children’s development.
a. The GUSTO study I mentioned earlier found links between mothers’ well-being during pregnancy and their children’s later development.
b. This is why the KidSTART programme supports families as early as possible, starting even before the child is born.
18. Mr Seah Kian Peng will be glad to know that we have supported over 6,200 children since KidSTART was started in 2016. We have closely studied the impact of the programme on families, and seen positive outcomes for parents and children alike.
a. Through regular home visits, KidSTART equips parents with the skills and knowledge to support their children’s development, health and nutrition.
b. Parents in KidSTART families who received these visits showed improvements in their parenting skills such as confidence and ability to interact well with their children and reduced parenting stress. Their children also improved in their socio-emotional and daily living skills which is demonstrated in their ability to cooperate with others, manage their emotions and self-control.
i. These are significant outcomes in early childhood interventions, and have far-reaching consequences including influencing many outcomes later in life such as educational attainment and employment.
19. As DPM Wong mentioned in his Budget speech, we will expand KidSTART nationwide to offer the programme to all eligible families. We expect to support about 80% of children from eligible lower-income families, up from around 20% today, beginning with children born this year.
a. To achieve this expansion, we will be working with KKH and NUH to develop protocols to allow us to systematically identify and encourage more eligible mothers-to-be to sign up for KidSTART.
b. These eligible mothers-to-be will be supported by a multidisciplinary team during their pregnancy, to help them keep well physically and mentally before childbirth.
c. After their child is born, the new mothers will continue to be supported by KidSTART practitioners in the home, community and preschool settings, to empower them to continue to nurture their children’s growth and development. KidSTART is an open programme and eligible mothers are welcomed to join at any point during their pregnancy or after their child is born.
20. KidSTART’s success is possible only through partnering our community and corporates, which have given holistic support to families across the social, health and education domains.
a. We are keen to work with more partners as we reach out to more families in the next phase of KidSTART’s expansion. We will also continue to enhance coordination with our partners to better support KidSTART families, as Ms Joan Pereira had suggested.
21. Our data shows that about 80% of children aged 3 to 4 from lower-income families are enrolled into preschool. This is lower than the enrolment rate for their peers.
a. Lower income families are faced with complex challenges including searching for stable employment, housing or perhaps managing medical issues. Hence, early preschool enrolment for their young children may not be a priority.
22. We have made some progress through KidSTART and the Preschool Outreach Programme in reaching out to lower-income families to help facilitate their children’s preschool enrolment.
a. We have also taken decisive steps to enhance preschool affordability for lower-income families. Currently, they can pay as low as $3 per month for full-day childcare at Anchor Operator preschools.
b. However, more needs to be done to close the preschool enrolment gap between children from lower-income families and their peers.
23. Every child from a lower-income household will have priority enrolment in Anchor Operator preschools so that they can be enrolled as soon as possible.
a. We hope that with a facilitated enrolment process, parents from lower income families will work with us and help to enrol their children into preschool by age 3.
24. Beyond preschool enrolment, we also recognise that children from lower-income families may need more support to attend preschool regularly.
a. KidSTART practitioners will work closely with preschools to address barriers to regular preschool attendance for KidSTART children.
b. ComLink, which SPS Eric Chua will elaborate on later, also addresses attendance barriers and other family needs holistically.
25. Under the Forward SG exercise, we are studying how to further support children from lower-income families in preschools, including considering different ways to encourage timely enrolment and regular attendance. We will provide more updates when ready.
26. Together, these moves will lay a stronger foundation to help children from lower-income families progress in life.
a. By intervening early to improve support subsequent education and life outcomes, we hope to sustain social mobility across generations.
33. Chairman, In Mandarin please.
a. It is important that we continue to build strong and resilient families, which are the bedrock of society.
i. Families play an indispensable role in caring and raising our children, especially in their earliest years.
ii. Families encourage our children to progress towards their aspirations, help them develop the right mindset to overcome challenges and inspire them to take the opportunities presented to them. These are the most valuable lessons that will carry our children through life.
b. We recognise that parents may have different needs and preferences when caring for their children.
i. Today, most infants are cared for in a home-based setting by caregivers such as parents and family members, while around one in five infants are in centre-based infant care. At the playgroup years, there is also a growing segment of families who are enrolling their children in preschools.
ii. The Government is studying how to better support families with infants, to meet varying preferences and needs. We will share more when ready.
c. For children aged 3 and above, preschool can be the best option to meet parents’ caregiving needs while supporting children’s development.
i. We have made good progress in improving access to affordable and quality preschools, and will continue to invest heavily in our preschools.
d. There are also some families that need more help in their journey. We will step up our efforts to provide targeted and timely support for children from lower-income families, as well as families who have children with developmental needs.
i. We need community partners and volunteers to come alongside such families to create a strong tapestry of support, empowering them and their children to rise above their circumstances.
ii. Preschools and early childhood educators also play an important role, working closely with parents and the community to equip these children with the tools that they need to develop and thrive alongside their peers.
e. It takes a whole-of-society effort to build a Singapore Made for Families.
i. For the next three years, MSF will shine the spotlight on and celebrate the good work of those who deliver social good every day, starting with 2023 as the Year of Celebrating Social Service Partners to recognise the integral contributions of partners from within and beyond the social service sector who work with us and with each other to build strong families and a caring society.
ii. Let us work closely together to empower parents to give our children the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential – by nurturing their early growth and development at home, and enrolling them in preschool by age 3 so that they can benefit from quality preschool education.
34. Chairman, parents should have the assurance that their children will be well-supported and have good access to opportunities to progress in life, regardless of their starting points.
a. This is a commitment that we want to make, and a journey we want to walk alongside our families.
35. We are all familiar with the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”.
36. What it means for us today is that it takes many helping hands to give every child a good start in life, and build a Singapore Made for Families together.
a. Our preschools, social service agencies, healthcare institutions, and other community partners have made good progress in supporting families with young children. The Government will continue to work with them in a more coordinated manner.
37. Even as we work together to strengthen support for families, every family must be willing to come forward, seize the opportunities presented to them, and do their part to achieve stability, self-reliance and social mobility.
38. Thank you.
Extract from: Speech by Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State for Ministry of Social and Family Development and Ministry of Home Affairs, at Committee of Supply 2023 | Ministry of Social and Family Development (msf.gov.sg)