HDB investigating makeshift 'childcare centre' in Toa Payoh flat

Children's footwear filled the two shoe racks at the unit in Toa Payoh, which is reportedly operating a makeshift childcare centre for up to 10 kids.
Children's footwear filled the two shoe racks at the unit in Toa Payoh, which is reportedly operating a makeshift childcare centre for up to 10 kids.PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS

SINGAPORE - A night-time "childcare centre" has been operating at a Housing Board flat in Toa Payoh, caring for up to 10 children.

Residents at the block told Shin Min Daily News that parents take their kids to the flat every day after 6pm.

The children are of primary school age, with some five years old, Shin Min reported on Saturday (March 11). Some are reportedly driven there by their parents, while others are dropped off by the school bus.

"The children usually stay there for some hours. Some even spend the night there, and the parents pick them up the next day," said the resident whose name was not given.

Shin Min visited the block and a resident who declined to be named said that the owner of the flat had started renting it out one or two years ago.

"After the tenant moved in, occasionally I'll see a woman taking her kids there."

Another resident who declined to be named told Shin Min that he hears the sound of children running in the unit every night.

He said he previously asked the tenant of the unit about the situation. The tenant reportedly said he let them run to expend their energy.

Other residents said the family was friendly and the children polite.

Shin Min observed that the two shoe racks outside the flat were stacked with shoes and slippers, many of them kid-sized.

When asked by Shin Min, a male tenant at the flat in question denied that he was running a "childcare centre".

He explained: "I'm just helping my friends look after their kids, there are more than 10 of them. I receive some money to help out with family expenses."

The man, who is in his 50s, said that the parents who take their kids there are from China. These parents want to let their children have an environment where they can learn English, and he would speak the language to them.

The man added that he resorted to this as he had been unemployed for six years.

He was previously an art teacher in Hong Kong and Macau, where he lived for more than 10 years.

When he returned to Singapore, he could not find a job.

"I have a son who has attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at home, so I give tuition at home, and help my friends look after their kids, to pay the bills."

He said he was not robbing anyone, and that it was not easy to get a job at his age.

Shin Min checked with the landlord, who said she was unaware of the activities going on and would immediately find out more from the housing agent.

A spokesman for the HDB told The Straits Times yesterday (March 11) that flats are for residential use. 

“While residents may use their flats to carry out home-based small scale informal businesses under the Home Based Small Scale Business Scheme, childcare centres are not allowed,” said the spokesman.

The spokesman said HDB had not previously received feedback about childcare services being provided in the flat in question.

"We are investigating the case with the relevant authorities,” said HDB.