New CDA First Step grant benefits lower income families the most: Tan Chuan-Jin

New parents Mohamad Sopian Hairi and Seri Hirdayu with their newborn daughter Liya Zafirah. They received Baby Bonus kits and leaflets on the Child Development Account First Step Grant from Mr Tan on March 25, 2016.
New parents Mohamad Sopian Hairi and Seri Hirdayu with their newborn daughter Liya Zafirah. They received Baby Bonus kits and leaflets on the Child Development Account First Step Grant from Mr Tan on March 25, 2016.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - A new grant that will give parents $3,000 upfront for their children's Child Development Account (CDA) will benefit families that find it hard to save money, said Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin on Friday (March 25).

He said about 5 per cent of account holders do not deposit money into these special savings accounts, for which the Government matches, up to a ceiling, parents' deposits.

The money can be used at approved institutions to pay for childcare fees and medical expenses, among other things.

Parents of babies born from Thursday (March 24) onwards will get $3,000 upfront deposited into their child's CDA under the new First Step Grant announced during the 2016 Budget.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to KK Women's and Children's Hospital on Friday, Mr Tan said: "We have found over the years that some families who are not able to put in any money, or (can only put in) a limited amount of money are not really maximising the amount of grant or support that the government is able to provide."

This usually boiled down to the inability of some parents to save, he added.

He encouraged parents to deposit money into their children's CDA from July 1, when the new grant will take effect.

He also said, when asked, that there are no plans to backdate the grant to Jan 1 this year.

In a Facebook post on Friday about the Budget announcements aimed at families and the young, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said schemes like the First Start grant and a new Outward Bound Singapore campus that will be built on Coney Island are meant to "help our young grow up to be the best they can be".

He recounted his experience at an Outward Bound course when he was a 15-year-old, saying it was a significant growing up experience for him.

He said he and his coursemates were stretched to the limits and learnt to work together as they learned new skills like crossing a rope bridge.

While such courses are shorter these days, Mr Lee added, they continue to help young people build skills and attitudes like resilience and teamwork that are critical for Singapore's survival and success.

He said: "Starting right means starting young."

charyong@sph.com.sg