New scheme to provide needy children in North West District with $500 each yearly

DPM Lawrence Wong and North West District Mayor Alex Yam at the launch of the new scheme, dubbed Little Steps @ North West, at the Singapore Zoo on Saturday. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE – Vulnerable families with young children in places such as Sembawang and Marsiling will receive more support to cope with daily expenses under a new North West Community Development Council (CDC) initiative.

Dubbed Little Steps @ North West, it will provide more than 650 children in the district with $500 each annually.

Beneficiaries will comprise children aged six and below who are supported by early childhood programme KidStart. Led by the Early Childhood Development Agency, KidStart assists in the development of children from lower-income families up to age six.

The money will be disbursed into the bank accounts of their parents or caregivers.

Little Steps @ North West is expected to run for at least five years and will tap the $2 million – comprising $1 million from donors and another $1 million from the CDC – raised during a campaign in 2021.

Speaking at an event marking the launch of the scheme at the Singapore Zoo on Saturday, North West District Mayor Alex Yam said those eligible can expect to get the grant by end-March.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, who attended the event, said the scheme will help families defray daily expenses and allow them to focus on the development of their children.

“We hope this gesture will provide some immediate relief for our families, especially during this period of heightened inflation,” added DPM Wong, who is also an MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.

Among the beneficiaries is Ms Shalini Devi Manisagram, 37, whose two youngest children, aged three and six, will each get $500.

The housewife, a former infant care teacher who also took on part-time work as a nanny, stopped working to take care of her young children.

Her husband, 38, recently left his operations officer job of nine years to take a crawler crane operation course in the hope of getting better pay in a new line of work.

The couple have two other children, aged nine and 10.

The additional $1,000 will go towards monthly payments for their flat while her husband looks for a new job, said Ms Shalini.

“It really means a lot to us,” she added.

Ms Shalini Devi Manisagram with her husband and their children at the Singapore Zoo on Saturday. Their two youngest children, aged three and six, will each get $500 from the Little Steps @ North West initiative. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Mr Yam said that while an additional $500 will not solve all the problems faced by the beneficiaries, it is quite a significant amount, given the high costs associated with raising young children.

“This is a small way to address some of the rising cost-of-living issues that they are facing and give them greater peace of mind,” he told reporters, adding that the CDC will consider expanding the programme and raising funds to support it beyond the five-year mark.

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