SINGAPORE: In Parliament on Tuesday (Apr 12), Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin detailed the new KidSTART initiative, aimed at supporting low income and vulnerable children to enable them to have a "good start" in life.
KidSTART will proactively identify children aged six and below, provide them with early access to health, learning and developmental support, and monitor their progress during their early years, Mr Tan said during the Committee of Supply debates for the Ministry for Social and Family Development.
The initiative was first announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat as part of his Budget 2016 statement on Mar 24, where Mr Heng said that it is likely to cost more than S$20 million.
In a press release, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) said that it would pilot the new initiative.
"This pilot will allow ECDA to test the implementation of the system with different partners, and tap on the unique make-up and resources available to support vulnerable children in these local communities," said ECDA. "It will also allow ECDA to evaluate and refine the delivery model before evaluating whether KidSTART should be offered in more areas, and if so, the most feasible approach."
The KidSTART pilot will start in Bukit Merah, Kreta Ayer, Boon Lay, Taman Jurong and Geylang Serai, where the Ministry of Social and Family Develpoment expects to reach out to about 1,000 children in the first three years, Mr Tan said. The programme will begin in the second half of 2016, said ECDA.
The ECDA has set up a Programme Office to implement KidSTART, it said. Mr Tan added that ECDA will also work with Government agencies and selected Social Service Offices, hospitals and community partners to identify, reach out and provide coordinated support to such children and their families.
Mr Tan said that under the programme, the child's parents will be given support, if possible, even before the mother gives birth. The parents will continue to receive support beyond this stage, with home-visits, parent education and family support programmes, as well as links to support groups and existing community resources, depending on their needs.
"Through these, we hope to work with the parent to create a supportive and nurturing environment for the child," said Mr Tan.
Selected pre-schools will also provide additional support and work with parents, to better support the child through his pre-school years and his transition to primary school, added ECDA.
On Monday, Minister of State for Education Dr Janil Puthucheary said that KidSTART aims to encourage vulnerable families to send their children to pre-school.