Helping unwed mums with more than just housing

When unwed mothers go to the Minister for Social and Family Development for help, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin sends his team to do what they can.

"I work with a team of grassroots leaders to get in touch with the individuals to understand their situations, including family circumstances and other factors," Mr Tan told The Straits Times.

Most times, the team helps with financial assistance and employment opportunities.

It is not unusual for Members of Parliament to lend a helping hand.

Ms Tin Pei Ling, the MP for Macpherson SMC, said she has helped around five unwed mothers with their housing needs since 2011.

"We try to find other ways to make them qualify, such as applying with their parents or things like that. In some cases, see if getting a rental flat is possible or if they can tumpang with their family for now and wait till they turn 35," she added, using the Malay term for "hitch a ride".

Said Mr Desmond Choo, an MP for Tampines GRC, in his experience, the Government is sympathetic to the plights of single parents.

"I have encountered instances in which help for public rental housing is provided on a case-to-case basis. They review cases, paying special attention to the difficult circumstances," he added.

MPs said these mothers need help beyond housing - such as financial aid, employment and emotional support - which grassroots organisations try to help with. Tampines Changkat, for example, formed a support group for single mothers, said Mr Choo.

Policy disparities for unwed mothers have also been equalised in recent years, said Mr Tan.

This year, unwed mothers have the full 16-week maternity leave, compared with just eight weeks previously. From September last year, children born to unmarried parents were also included in the Child Development Account (CDA) First Step grant, in which the Government puts $3,000 in each child's CDA, even if parents do not deposit anything.

Kok Xing Hui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2017, with the headline 'Helping unwed mums with more than just housing'. Print Edition | Subscribe