SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is studying the possibility of piloting night-time childcare at a Community Link (ComLink) site to provide greater support to low-income families.
Currently, more than 40 childcare centres, or 3 per cent of all centres, operate beyond 7pm on weekdays, said Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli in a written parliamentary reply on Thursday (Feb 25).
He was responding to a question from Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng (PAP-Nee Soon) on the ministry's findings from its study on the demand and need for night-time childcare services.
The ministry had engaged about 650 families with children living in rental housing to understand their needs and circumstances, including caregiving arrangements, said Mr Masagos.
"Engagements with some community partners indicated that night-time childcare services could be useful to some low-income families," he added.
"We are studying the possibility of piloting night-time childcare at a ComLink site to better assess demand for and sustainability of such services."
The four ComLink pilot sites are at Boon Lay, Jalan Kukoh, Kembangan-Chai Chee and Marsiling.
The minister noted that childcare centres are required to operate full-day services from 7am to 7pm on weekdays, and from 7am to 2pm on Saturdays to cater to the needs of working parents.
Childcare centres have the discretion to extend their services beyond the standard operating hours, taking into consideration demand and resources, he said. About 3 per cent of centres operate beyond 7pm on weekdays.
"The current arrangement meets the needs of most parents. For those working shifts or on weekends, many of them arrange for other caregivers, such as grandparents and relatives, to help out," said Mr Masagos.
"Nevertheless, we understand that some families may face difficulties in making such caregiving arrangements."
ComLink, an initiative to help families with children living in rental housing, will be expanded nationwide to cover 14,000 families over the next two years, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech last week.
The ComLink sites, set up at or near rental flats, aim to offer more integrated and coordinated support, and customised programmes and services for families there.
In 2019, then Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said that MSF may bring in parenting workshops and night-time student care or childcare if such needs are identified in the community.