SINGAPORE: On Friday (27 Oct), Singapore’s ruling party PAP fourth-generation (4G) leadership unveiled a comprehensive 180-page Forward Singapore report, aiming to chart a clear path toward a more equitable and flourishing Singapore.
Proposed measures to achieve this include providing greater assistance to groups such as the less well-off, mid-career workers, and seniors through means like additional financial support and improved infrastructure.
There will also be greater assurance that Singaporeans’ basic needs at every life stage will be met, such as in education, retirement, healthcare and housing.
The government launched the Forward Singapore (Forward SG) exercise in June 2022, engaging Singaporeans from all walks of life on how the city-state should refresh our social compact for the road ahead.
The Government’s revamped strategy, as outlined in the recent Forward Singapore report, aims to foster long-term empowerment for low-income families with children, transitioning from mere social assistance to comprehensive social empowerment.
Support for Low-Income Families in Housing Board Rental Flats
Under the Community Link (ComLink) scheme, targeted measures will be introduced for families residing in highly subsidized Housing Board rental flats. These measures will be tied to customized plans aimed at propelling each family forward.
For instance, extended and increased financial support will be provided to ComLink families who demonstrate progress toward their personal goals, such as sustained employment, saving for homeownership, and ensuring regular pre-school attendance for their children.
According to the report, this approach, termed ComLink+, aims to alleviate immediate financial burdens on families while supporting their endeavours to enhance their overall life circumstances.
“In this way, we reduce the short-term resource pressures on families and help them with their efforts to improve their life circumstances,” said the report.
The Forward Singapore report, spearheaded by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and other fourth-generation leaders, serves as a comprehensive blueprint for the nation’s future development, emphasizing the significance of the ComLink+ strategy.
Since its inception in 2019, the ComLink program has provided integrated and comprehensive aid to low-income families, addressing a wide range of their needs, including employment support and child development.
Mr Wong, who is also the Finance Minister, highlighted the Government’s commitment to further enhancing social mobility during his initial presentation of the broad framework of ComLink+ on October 19.
To prevent the perpetuation of a permanent underclass within the nation, Mr Wong emphasized the need for measures that facilitate equal opportunities for all families.
He highlighted concerns about the deepening of social stratification, a trend observed not only in Singapore but also in other developed nations.
According to the report, as society progresses, the risk of diminished social mobility looms large. Affluent families are able to pass down their advantages to their children, perpetuating a cycle of privilege, while children from lower-income backgrounds encounter multiple obstacles from birth, making it increasingly challenging for them to bridge the gap.
The Government has actively extended support to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups over the years, with a commitment to continue these efforts.
“At the same time, we have sought to ensure that government actions do not lead to a greater sense of dependency and entitlement,” it said. “Instead, we want government actions to complement and reinforce individual and family effort, as well as contributions from other stakeholders.”
To facilitate the attainment of set goals, ComLink officers will undergo specialized training to serve as family coaches, enabling them to establish more intimate connections with each household.
The report emphasized the importance of early enrollment in preschool to prevent developmental disparities upon entry into Primary 1.
Government to prioritize accessibility and affordability in childcare for lower-income families
As reported by the Singapore state media, the Straits Times, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) highlighted the necessity for enhanced accessibility and affordability of preschools for lower-income families, as identified during the Forward SG discussions, to provide children with a solid foundation.
Consequently, the government plans to grant the maximum childcare subsidies to each child from all lower-income households, based on their income tier.
Presently, childcare subsidies for lower-income families are means-tested, with households earning up to S$6,000 a month paying as low as S$3 to a maximum of S$115 per month for full-day childcare at a pre-school operated by an anchor entity.
The spokesperson assured that further details would be disclosed at a later date.
Furthermore, select government-supported preschools will receive supplementary financial aid and staffing to better cater to the requirements of children from lower-income households.
This support will involve increased engagement with parents to ensure regular school attendance, as well as assistance for children with learning needs to facilitate their progress in line with their peers.
In addition to aiding low-income families, the report highlights initiatives designed to help all families strike a balance between caregiving responsibilities and professional aspirations.
To this end, the Government will assess the practicality of extending paid parental leave, taking into account the potential impact on business expenses and operations.
Furthermore, the Government aims to expand the capacity of infant care facilities by approximately 70%, thereby creating an additional 9,000 spots by 2030.
It also plans to collaborate with service providers to introduce affordable, secure, and dependable childminding services as an alternative for families seeking infant care. Noting the current scarcity and high costs of such services, the report highlighted the need for more accessible options.
The MSF spokesperson said certain private companies currently offer childminding services, and there are individuals providing informal and occasional care for infants, typically within their own homes. Further details on these developments will be communicated by the ministry in due course.
Additionally, the report provided an update on the Enabling Masterplan 2030, emphasizing its vision for Singapore to become an inclusive society by 2030, particularly for individuals with disabilities. Notably, legislative amendments were introduced in June to expedite the enhancement of building accessibility for individuals with disabilities.
Families with children having developmental and special educational needs will receive added assistance to alleviate their out-of-pocket expenses for early intervention services, special education schools, and special student care centers.