BUDGET 2016 - Shaping our future together: Helping families

Correspondent's take: Timely action to help kids in dire situations

Enhancements to the Marriage and Parenthood package, and two other initiatives announced in the Budget, go beyond the usual family-friendly perks by aiming to help disadvantaged children - at an early stage.

The new Child Development Account (CDA) First Step grant of $3,000 - which goes into the account without parents having to first put money in it - will be especially helpful for parents who either place no deposits in the CDA, or who do not deposit enough in it to get the maximum co-matching funds from the Government.

And under the new KidStart initiative, more than $20 million will go towards helping about 1,000 disadvantaged children get learning and health support in their first six years.

Then there is the grant of up to $35,000 for families with kids in rental flats so they can move to their own two-room flats.

These early intervention measures are timely. Research shows that experiences in a child's early years, even before he goes to primary school, can affect his development.

For a child from a disadvantaged family, attending pre-school may not be a priority when parents have money troubles.

A scheme, Circle of Care, piloted at two pre-schools, has shown that such children can be brought back into the fold, with their parents getting more involved in their development.

This is why the Government has pushed for affordable and quality pre-school education, especially in the heartland, so children from low-income families benefit too. Even then, for a child from a disadvantaged family, attending pre-school may not be a priority when parents have money troubles.

A scheme, Circle of Care, piloted at two pre-schools has shown that such children can be brought back into the fold, with their parents getting more involved in their development.

Of the 76 at-risk children, 95 per cent came from families with household incomes of below $3,000 a month. The scheme saw average attendance go up from 30 to 70 per cent.

So the importance of helping children from disadvantaged families from all fronts. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a slew of measures - monetary and non-monetary support in health, housing and pre-school - to help get a child out of his dire family circumstances.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Timely action to help kids in dire situations '. Print Edition | Subscribe