National Day Rally 2015: Proximity Housing Grant, enhanced Baby Bonus among new family-centric schemes unveiled

SG50 Jubilee twins Charlotte and Colette. PM Lee Hsien Loong unveiled a slew of pro-family measures, including an enhanced Baby Bonus scheme.
SG50 Jubilee twins Charlotte and Colette. PM Lee Hsien Loong unveiled a slew of pro-family measures, including an enhanced Baby Bonus scheme.PHOTO: MCI
PM Lee Hsien Loong announced an enhancement to the Baby Bonus scheme to help parents defray child-raising costs, as well as longer paternity leave for fathers.
PM Lee Hsien Loong announced an enhancement to the Baby Bonus scheme to help parents defray child-raising costs, as well as longer paternity leave for fathers.PHOTO: ST FILE
A new Proximity Housing Grant, which encourages married couples and their parents to live closer together, was announced by PM Lee Hsien Loong.
A new Proximity Housing Grant, which encourages married couples and their parents to live closer together, was announced by PM Lee Hsien Loong.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - A new housing grant will be introduced to further help families live closer together.

The Proximity Housing Grant will go to Singaporean married couples buying a resale flat with or near to their parents, or near their married children.

It will be available to all Singaporean households including those who are not first-time buyers, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his National Day Rally speech on Sunday.

Mr Lee, who spoke about the important role families have to play in nation building, also unveiled other initiatives aimed at fostering closer familial ties and raising the nation's birth rates.

The Baby Bonus scheme, which helps parents defray child-raising costs, will be enhanced.

The Government will increase the amount of the bonus, he announced without giving a specific figure.

The bonus will also be extended to every child instead of just the four children.

The previous boost in 2013 saw cash gifts for the first and second child raised from $4,000 to $6,000, and from $6,000 to $8,000 for the third and fourth.

The Government will also up the amount it puts into a newborn's CPF Medisave account.

 

Currently, each newborn receives a $3,000 grant deposited in two equal tranches - after the baby's registration of birth, and then in the subsequent year if the child continues to be enrolled in MediShield or a Medisave-approved Integrated Shield Plan.

To give parents "greater peace of mind", Mr Lee said that this grant will be raised so that it is enough to cover the new MediShield Life premiums for the child until he or she is 21 years old. It can also help with other healthcare expenses.

Lastly, paternity leave for fathers will be doubled to two weeks so that dads "can do more". He first introduced the initiative in 2012.

The Government will pay for the extra week of leave, PM Lee added.

It will be implemented initially on a voluntary basis in order to give employers and companies time to adjust. The public service will take the lead.

The enhanced Baby Bonus, Medisave Grant and paternity leave changes apply with effect from Jan 1, 2015.

He said: "It is the Jubilee year, and I think we should give all our Jubilee babies this hongbao.

"We will give details soon," he said. "I hope this will help many more couples to experience the joy of parenthood."

PM Lee said he was heartened by the "promising" number of babies born last year - the highest in a decade.

This year, a record 129 babies were born on National Day, the highest since 2007.

Almost 20,000 SG50 Jubilee Baby gifts - including one for MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling, who gave birth to a boy on Aug 5 - have been given out so far.

Mr Lee voiced his hope that couples will continue to have many children beyond SG50.

Describing having a child as a "major responsibility", he said he is advocating not just practical help, but also steps to alter social attitudes.

He said: "Our families are what make life meaningful for many of us. And children ensure that Singapore will have a future."