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Advance notice needed

Letter from Lee Kim Hua

Director, Family Services Division

Ministry of Community Development,Youth and Sports

I REFER to “Why the rise in fees” (Sept 11) by Mr Alan Tan, on concerns regarding childcare centres raising their fees following the announced increase in childcare subsidy.

The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports requires all childcare centres to notify parents and the Ministry at least two months in advance should they wish to increase their fees.

Childcare centres are business entities which need to remain viable. The rising cost of living,as well as higher requirements for teacher qualifications in the pre- school sector, may lead to higher costs.

We strongly urge operators to exercise restraint and to keep their services affordable for parents. Operators should bear in mind increased competition in the sector given that a further 200 new child care centres will be established over the next five years. Parents will select child care centres that best meet their expectations in the most cost effective manner.

We thank Mr Tan for his feedback. The Ministry will continue to monitor the situation and review policies on child care centres where necessary.

Why the rise in fees?

MY WIFE and I send our two toddlers to a childcare centre as my wife has returned to work after two years.

We are glad that the Government is placing great emphasis on the quality, affordability and accessibility of centre-based childcare and has taken steps to provide recurrent funding and scholarships and bursaries to eligible centres.

However, we are disappointed to be informed by our children’s care centre that it is increasing the fees by $50 per child per month. The centre said the increase was necessary to attract and retain qualified and committed teachers and to cover rising operational costs. It had increased fees in the first quarter of this year for the same reasons.

Based on the fact that the additional childcare subsidy granted to parents is $150, the increase of $50 is equivalent to a 33-per-cent “cut” from what parents have been given to help defray costs of raising a child.

However, the Ministry of Community Affairs, Youth and Sports (MCYS) has clearly indicated that a recurrent funding for eligible childcare centres will be introduced and this funding is specifically to help such centres recruit, develop and retain qualified teachers.

What then, is the basis for centres increasing their fees? Other parents I spoke to told me that the centres their kids attend are not waiting for the MCYS funding but are instead proceeding to also increase their fees.

I cannot help but suspect that some childcare centres are “taking advantage” of the subsidies granted to parents so that they can have a share of that as well as enjoy the MCYS funding.

Are childcare centres allowed to revise their fees as and when they deem fit? Do they need to seek approval from MCYS and justify their reason for doing so?

How can parents be “protected” against such seemingly arbitrary action by childcare centres?

Alan Tan