An unwed parent will not be entitled to housing benefits even if the father or mother adopts their own child who is born out of wedlock.
And the Baby Bonus cash gift is meant only for those who have children within a marriage.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) yesterday made this clear in a letter to The Straits Times Forum page.
It was in response to letters by several readers and the Association of Women for Action and Research or Aware, which urged that all children and parents be treated equally.
The letters came after a Straits Times report on May 11 about how an unwed mother was adopting her own child in the hope that she will receive housing benefits and tax relief.
In its response yesterday, MSF said all Singaporean children enjoy a suite of benefits regardless of their parents' marital status. These include the Medisave grant for newborns, infant care and childcare subsidies, and maid levy concession.
"On top of these, the Child Development Account benefits and government-paid maternity leave were recently extended to include unwed mothers and their children," it added. However, "benefits such as the Baby Bonus cash gift and housing benefits are tied to the parent's marital status. The benefits will not be extended even if an unwed mother adopts her own child, as they are meant to encourage parenthood within marriage".
TIED TO MARITAL STATUS
Benefits such as the Baby Bonus cash gift and housing benefits are tied to the parent's marital status. The benefits will not be extended even if an unwed mother adopts her own child.
MINISTRY OF SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT, in a Forum letter
One woman in The Straits Times' report said, by adopting her daughter who was born out of wedlock, they would form a family nucleus and be able to enjoy benefits such as housing.
Another woman, who got the adoption order for her own son in March, was disappointed when told about MSF's clarification.
The 42-year-old woman said: "I understand the Baby Bonus is an additional incentive but I'm asking for basic things, like a roof over our heads. But even though I've adopted him to make him legal, HDB still wouldn't give us a house."
Women's rights group Aware said: "Any serious assessment of children's needs must recognise the harmful and destabilising impact of not being able to access affordable housing."
Sociologist Paulin Straughan said benefits such as housing were meant to promote parenthood within marriage. "These are pro-family schemes to encourage younger Singaporeans to get married, then to have children - it's very clear," she said. However, those who really need help can appeal, she added.
From 2014 to last year, HDB received appeals from 100 unwed parents under age 35 to buy flats. It received 300 appeals from unwed parents above 35 to rent a flat. About a fifth were approved. Singaporeans who are 35 and above can purchase a flat under the Singles Scheme.
The MSF yesterday said unwed mothers who require more support may approach an MSF Social Service Office for financial assistance.
The ministry said unwed mothers who want to adopt their own children need to think carefully as that will terminate the rights of the biological father.
That also means the child will not be able to seek maintenance from the father, the ministry added.