No mandatory refunds for pre-school fees but families can get help

As pre-schools and student care centres suspend general services from Wednesday, many parents have asked if they can get any fee refunds or waivers.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) called for understanding from parents, saying that many service providers would face closure or have to lay off staff if providing refunds were made compulsory.

"Rather than mandate refunds which help families but hurt businesses, the Government is implementing assistance measures, to help both families and businesses," a ministry spokesman said in response to queries.

But parents can still contact pre-schools and student care centres for more clarity, she said. "The operators may have their own administrative policies on refunds or waiver of fees, taking into account the government support provided to businesses."

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said last Friday that general services at all pre-schools and student care centres will be suspended from Wednesday until May 4.

But pre-schools will stay open for children whose parents cannot work from home because they are employed in essential services or are unable to find alternative caregiving arrangements.

The MSF spokesman noted that many services, not just pre-schools and student care centres, have been suspended.

"If the Government were to require all service providers, many of which are small and medium-sized enterprises, to provide refunds when they continue to incur costs, many of these companies would face closure or have to lay off their workers or reduce their salaries," she said.

Pre-schools may also be closed for most children, she added, but they will still support families through home-based activity resources, and will keep in touch with parents to check on their child's well-being.

The Early Childhood Development Agency will also waive the minimum attendance requirement for pre-school subsidies this month, while MSF will do the same for Student Care Fee Assistance subsidies. This will allow parents to continue to receive fee subsidies, even though their children will not be going to pre-school or student care centres for a month.

More help is also on the way for parents, as announced during the recent supplementary budget, said the MSF spokesman.

All Singaporeans aged 21 and above this year will receive a cash payout of $300, $600 or $900, depending on their income.

Each Singaporean parent with at least one Singaporean child aged 20 and below will also receive an additional $300 in cash.

More support for businesses and families will be announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat tomorrow.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 05, 2020, with the headline No mandatory refunds for pre-school fees but families can get help. Subscribe