Student care service - held after office hours - being piloted to help needy parents

SINGAPORE - A student care service, held after office hours, is being piloted to help parents from disadvantaged families get respite from caregiving at night. It caters to parents taking night classes to improve their employability, those doing shift work and those who need to attend to family emergencies, among others.

The CareNights@Morning Star programme offers student care services for children aged seven to 14, from 6pm to 10pm on weekdays. Most centres operate till 6.30pm on weekdays.

The activities are similar to student care services held in the daytime. They include homework supervision, enrichment and recreational activities.

Temasek Foundation Cares - a philanthropic arm of investment company Temasek - has committed $683,000 to the three-year pilot programme. Its chairman Richard Magnus said: "We met parents who would like to upgrade their skills to improve their employability but are limited by their family commitments to take care of the children. This programme gives these parents more opportunities to upgrade themselves... They can attend evening courses with peace of mind, knowing that their children are safe and well taken care of."

He added: "We also want to come alongside families who may be going through a temporary crisis such as illness or marital conflicts. We hope to provide them with respite to attend to these unforeseen challenges."

The programme has helped 19 children from 13 families, mostly single-parent families, since it started in July at a student care centre run by Morning Star Community Services. It was officially launched on Friday (Nov 25) by Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin at the centre at Block 95, Bedok North Avenue 4. It will be implemented in three more Morning Star centres by 2018. In total, the four centres serve 540 children.

Mr Kelvin Poon, board chairman of Morning Star Community Services, said: "We are mindful that families need to spend time together to form strong bonds. We work closely with each family to help them overcome challenges as soon as possible so that the child can be at home."

To be eligible for the programme, the family's per capita income and household income must not exceed $1,000 and $4,000 respectively. Parents need not pay any fees and can enrol their children for up to six months while they work on resolving the short-term challenges. Extensions to the enrolment will be considered on a case-by-case basis.