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Budget 2022: Singapore to continue 'investing heavily' in children to give them 'best possible start in life'

SINGAPORE: Singapore is continuing to “invest heavily” in children to give them "the best possible start in life", said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong in his Budget 2022 speech on Friday (Feb 18). 

“Just as we uplift our vulnerable groups, we will also continue to enhance social mobility,” he added. 

“The Government is committed to ensuring that all Singaporeans have the opportunities to do well for themselves, no matter their background or starting points.” 

Support starts early from the pre-school years, especially for children from low-income families, Mr Wong said.

“Yet, we know that some vulnerable children fall out of or behind in our education system because of difficult conditions at home. Early intervention in their formative years can make a big difference in their lives.” 

The KidSTART programme, which taps on a network of community partners to provide support to eligible families with young children, is on track to support 5,000 children by 2023, said Mr Wong. 

The programme will be progressively scaled up nationwide to support even more eligible families, he added. 

Most recently, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) announced in October 2021 that each KidSTART child will receive S$100 for each year of regular attendance until they reach six years old. 

Children will also be eligible for an additional one-time top-up when they enrol in pre-school. 

The one-time top-up will be increased to S$200 if they enrol between ages three and four. 

The UPLIFT Community Pilot was started to complement KidSTART, and strengthen support for school-going children in disadvantaged families, said Mr Wong. 

This includes connecting them with social service agencies and befrienders who check in with them regularly and provide mentorship, he noted. 

UPLIFT, or the Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce, aims to strengthen support for underperforming students from disadvantaged families, in particular by tackling long-term absenteeism and drop-out rates in schools. 

The pilot has yielded “positive outcomes”, said Mr Wong, noting that school attendance has improved for most of the students placed on the programme. 

The pilot will be expanded into a nationwide UPLIFT Community Network to benefit more students, he announced. This will start with eight more towns this year, and more in the coming years. 

Another “important intervention” is to provide these children with a more conducive living environment to grow up in, said Mr Wong. 

To better support families working towards home ownership, the Fresh Start Housing Scheme will be enhanced, said the Finance Minister. 

The Fresh Start Housing Scheme helps second-timer low-income families to purchase a home of their own, he noted. Second-timer households refer to those who have previously enjoyed one housing subsidy.

More details will be shared at the Ministry of National Development Committee of Supply debates, said Mr Wong.

Source: CNA/hw


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