SINGAPORE: Parents will have to continue paying pre-school fees even when centres are closed for a month as part of enhanced safe-distancing measures. The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) confirmed on Saturday (Apr 4) that the Government will not mandate a refund of pre-school fees during the closure.
CNA had asked MSF whether parents have to continue paying pre-school fees, and whether they would have to pay the full amount. In response to CNA's queries, an MSF spokesperson said that in the current COVID-19 situation, many services, not just pre-schools, have been suspended or scaled back.
“If the Government were to require all service providers, many of which are small and medium 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,” an MSF spokesperson said. "Rather than to mandate refunds which help families but hurt businesses, the Government is implementing assistance measures, to help both families and businesses."
The MSF spokesperson pointed to measures announced in the Resilience Budget to support families with living expenses. All Singaporeans aged 21 and above in 2020 will receive a cash payout of between S$300 and S$900 and each Singaporean parent with at least one Singaporean child aged 20 and below will also receive an additional S$300 in cash.
Measures to further support families and businesses will be announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday.
To further support parents during this period, the Early Childhood Development Agency will waive the minimum one-day attendance requirement in April so parents can continue to receive pre-school subsidies.
"Parents may also contact their pre-schools, as pre-schools may have their own administrative policies on refunds or waiver of fees taking into account the Government support provided to businesses," the MSF spokesperson said.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Friday that all pre-schools, kindergartens and student care centres will be closed from Apr 8 to May 4, but will provide limited services for children of parents who have to work and cannot find caregivers.
During this period, besides supporting children and parents through home-based activity resources, pre-schools will continue to keep in touch with parents to check on the child’s general well-being, MSF said.
The ministry said centres may close if they do not have any children who require the limited service provision. For those which will stay open for scaled-down operations, only the staff required to support the centre’s provision of the limited service should return to the centre. This can include minimal staff for planning of lessons, MSF said.
Otherwise, staff should telecommute during the pre-school closures, and conduct their work from home - for example, contacting parents to follow-up on children’s well-being, preparing lesson plans and home learning resources.
Operators should continue to pay employees during this period as they will continue to support the centres’ operations, MSF added.
"If the business is still operating fully, employers should continue to pay employees. Where business operations are reduced or ceased, the Ministry of Manpower, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Finance are working closely to enhance the Job Support Scheme for local workers so that employers can continue to pay them," the spokesperson said.
Employers should take into account the Government support provided in payments to staff, MSF said.
Editor's note: The headline to this story has been edited for clarity.