SINGAPORE: The family must remain the basic building block of Singapore society, and more support will be given "to create a conducive environment for Singaporeans to start families and raise children, enjoy family life and experience meaningful family ties", said Government ministries on Wednesday (Jan 20).
"The family must remain the basic building block of our society. The Ministry is committed to making Singapore a great place for families," said Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin.
More support will be given to strengthen marriages, including marriage preparation and support programmes for young couples and those marrying foreigners, he said. And to help married couples transition to parenting, evidence-based parenting programmes will be offered in schools and community.
Meanwhile, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) will continue to expand childcare capacity, particularly in housing estates with more young children, said the MSF, such that there will be one childcare place for every two children by 2017.
ECDA will also continue to provide "more good quality and affordable childcare options" through its Anchor Operator and Partner Operator schemes, while continuing to enhance the quality of preschool education and the professional development of early childhood educators, Mr Tan said.
"Children are our hope and future. The ministry will strive towards giving all our young children a good start in life," he said in response to President Tony Tan Keng Yam's call to build a caring society, outlined in the President's opening address in Parliament last Friday.
HELPING VULNERABLE CHILDREN
The MSF said it will work with other Government agencies and community organisations to identify vulnerable children from low-income or disadvantaged families, and support their developmental needs. The ministry will also introduce initiatives to help these families improve their home environments for the children’s learning and development, as well as support the children at pre-schools.
More care options will also be made available to children who need protection or care outside of their own homes. This will include working with Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) and volunteers to increase the number of foster families who can offer a nurturing environment for these children to grow up in. To better help youths-at-risk, MSF will strengthen both Government and community systems, programmes and capabilities in prevention, early intervention and rehabilitation, said Mr Tan.
"MSF will strengthen support for vulnerable families so that they can overcome their challenges and become more stable and resilient. We will look into new ways of engaging such families early, and work with social service agencies to assess their needs holistically to provide more coordinated and effective assistance," he said.
ROPING IN FATHERS AND EMPLOYERS
However, while the Government will continue with its housing and childcare policies, the wider Singaporean society has a part to play in building a "pro-family environment", said Mr Teo Chee Hean, Minister-In-Charge of the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD).
"In the last two years, citizen marriages and births were among their highest levels in more than a decade. We will try to keep this up. We have strengthened support for marriage and parenthood, for example, through enhanced housing and childcare policies. Even as we improve these measures, we must recognise the need for broader societal support," said the Deputy Prime Minister in his addenda to the President's address.
For example, with more mothers staying active in the workforce, there is room for fathers to play more active roles in raising their children, Mr Teo said. Workplace support from employers is also "critical" to the process, he said, while the Government will partner people-sector organisations with a family focus to cultivate stronger social support for marriage and parenthood.