Higher income ceiling under KidStart to benefit more children from low-income families

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee announced an initiative where companies and individuals can partner the Government to help children in the KidStart programme. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - More children from low-income families will get help under the KidStart programme, as the household income ceiling to qualify goes up from $1,900 to $2,500, announced Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee on Friday (Sept 13).

Speaking at the Early Childhood Conference, he also announced an initiative where companies and individuals can partner the Government to help children in the KidStart programme.

KidStart is a government pilot to help low-income children up to age six. It began in 2016 and has helped about 1,000 families since.

The programme provides families with advice and support in aspects such as nutrition, child development and parent-child interaction, to enable their children to have a good start in life.

In August, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced at the National Day Rally that the pilot would be expanded to benefit another 5,000 families.

Starting next year, the expansion will cover more locations in Singapore, with priority for areas with Community Link (ComLink) centres such as Kembangan-Chai Chee and Marsiling, said Mr Desmond Lee.

ComLink centres are where government agencies and community partners work together to meet the needs of families living in rental blocks.

In the first round of the pilot, the programme targeted children from low-income families in Bukit Merah, Kreta Ayer, Boon Lay, Taman Jurong and Geylang Serai.

Companies and individuals who wish to contribute to the KidStart programme can do so through the Growing Together with KidStart initiative from next year.

They can partner a KidStart community through service volunteering or providing families with items like milk and diapers, transport to attend pre-school or KidStart programmes, or learning resources.

Those interested can also donate money to top-up the Child Development Accounts of KidStart children, which will be matched by the Government up to a certain cap.

Mr Lee said that feedback from existing partners and other organisations found they wanted to do more.

"We hope that our children on KidStart will grow together with well-wishers and volunteers, in their relationships and interactions," said Mr Lee at the two-day conference held at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The event, organised by the Early Childhood Development Agency, aims to provide a platform for professionals and parents to keep updated with the current trends in early childhood development, share practices and build networks.

In line with the theme this year, Beyond the Classroom: Take Learning Outdoors, Mr Lee announced that two prototype outdoor learning spaces will be launched in Bukit Batok and Jurong West.

This will test how existing pre-schools in Housing Board estates can tap the environment outside their centres for outdoor learning.

In Jurong West, the prototype will introduce ways to allow easier access from indoors to the outdoors, such as creating an extension from the centre's window that leads out to an open area.

The second prototype in Bukit Batok will create outdoor learning trails, such as music walls with old pots and pans, obstacle courses using recycled items and community learning gardens.

The National Institute of Early Childhood Development will also introduce courses for early childhood educators on outdoor learning next year, and offer training for centre leaders on how to support teachers carrying out outdoor learning.

As he concluded his speech, Mr Lee said: "The next frontier (for the early childhood sector) requires us to forge strong partnerships, in the intersection of government, civil society and enterprise.

"This approach is a key part of our vision for a society that cares, that creates opportunities for all."

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