Thursday 26 September 2013

Childcare centres get funds to open in more areas

$40m over five years to help operators open in high-demand areas
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 25 Sep 2013

PARENTS in areas where there are not enough childcare centres may soon find it easier to secure places for their children.

For instance, operators can get rental subsidies even when they set up centres in commercial buildings like malls. Currently, subsidies are given to eligible operators only for centres in Housing Board premises such as void-deck areas.

To house these new centres, developers of commercial premises will be given incentives - in the form of additional floor area - when they set aside space for childcare facilities.

The Government will set aside up to $40 million over the next five years to fund these schemes, in the latest round of measures to ramp up childcare places.

The schemes unveiled yesterday were targeted at small and mid-sized childcare centres run by commercial and non-profit operators. These operators have found it hard to cope with rising rentals, and to compete with bigger players for space to expand.

About 847 of the 1,070 childcare centres here are run by small and mid-sized operators.

Under a scheme announced yesterday, these operators can apply from October for rental subsidies when they set up centres in commercial premises in areas where pre-school services are in high demand. The Government will subsidise 30 per cent of rental costs for commercial centres, and 60 per cent for those run by voluntary welfare organisations.

Currently, commercial operators do not qualify for rental subsidies. Non-profit ones can apply for help, but only when they set up centres at HDB void decks.

To get the subsidies, operators must meet affordability and quality criteria. For instance, fees must be capped at $850 a month for a full-day childcare programme over three years after their application for the scheme is approved.

"We want to enhance our support to operators to expand their operations in these high-demand areas," Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said on the sidelines of a visit to Just Kids Learning Place, a childcare centre at Taman Jurong Shopping Centre.

High-demand areas include Punggol, Sengkang, Jurong West, Woodlands and Tampines. Some of these areas are new estates with many young couples, and childcare centres in these places usually have long waiting lists.

Mr Chan gave details on other support schemes. Kindergartens in high-demand areas keen to offer childcare services will get help to pay for converting their premises. At workplaces, building owners may also benefit from government grants covering up to 50 per cent of the cost of setting up childcare facilities for their employees. Previously, only government- owned buildings were eligible.

Childcare operators welcomed the new measures. Just Kids Learning Place director Lurvin Lee said rental rates for her centres in commercial premises are 30 per cent higher compared to a HDB void- deck centre. Said Ms Lee: "The subsidy would help us to better cope with the rents."

IT consultant Felix Tan, 29, a Kim Tian resident, said there were 80 children on the waiting list for a childcare centre near his place.

The father of a 17-month-old son said: "With operators given more options to set up in premises here, I would be able to find pre-school places more easily."


No comments:

Post a Comment