Public service adjusting policies to be more citizen-centric: ECDA chief

Mr Eugene Leong was among 59 public service officers whose promotions were announced yesterday.
Mr Eugene Leong was among 59 public service officers whose promotions were announced yesterday.

Job-seeking mothers have more time to look for a job now, thanks to a doubling in the duration of childcare subsidy - from three months to six.

The change, introduced last month, is an example of how the public service is adjusting its policies to be more citizen-centric, said Mr Eugene Leong, chief executive of the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA).

The subsidy that a job-seeking mother can receive is equivalent to that of a working mother: $600 a month for each child for infant care, and $300 a month for each child for childcare.

Mr Leong said the change in policy gives mothers time to look for a job without having to struggle to pay childcare fees.

Non-working mothers can get $150 a month for each child in infant care or childcare.

Mr Leong cited the changes as part of how the public service is re-examining its processes "from citizens' perspective, to ensure that they are actually getting the support they need".

Mr Leong, 44, was one of the 59 officers whose promotions were announced at the annual Administrative Service Dinner and Promotion Ceremony held yesterday at the ParkRoyal hotel in Beach Road.

On April 1, he had also taken on the role of second deputy secretary at the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

In an interview last Friday, Mr Leong, who joined the public service in 2000 and has worked in various ministries, spelt out the direction he hopes the service will take.

To further benefit citizens, the public service needs to work closely with community partners, he said.

He cited the ECDA's KidStart scheme, which helps disadvantaged children through health, learning and developmental support.

It works with different partners, such as social service offices and family service centres, for referrals, and grassroots and community partners to find areas to hold playgroups, with parents encouraged to attend the sessions, he said.

Since KidStart began as a pilot programme in 2016, more than 900 families have been on it.

A key priority in the ECDA is manpower and ensuring that teachers are skilled educators and are available to staff pre-school centres, said Mr Leong.

There are currently 18,000 early childhood educators, and the target is to have 20,000 by next year.

The ECDA is working with the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) to provide more places for potential educators.

NIEC, set up last May, plans to admit about 700 students into the inaugural cohort of its new diploma programme this year, double the total intake for such programmes in 2015.

To attract mid-career entrants, place-and-train programmes are available for those who will work for a salary while attending heavily subsidised courses, said Mr Leong.

Adrian Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2019, with the headline 'Public service adjusting policies to be more citizen-centric: ECDA chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe