Caught in a bind over childcare fees
Sun, May 23, 2010
The Straits Times

I AM parent to a pair of twins who attend one of the YWCA childcare centres.

At end April, we were notified of a fee increase of up to $94.30 per child with effect from July 1 - this meant at least $180 plus per month for us with twins.

The increase was steep at 38 per cent over the existing fees. Together with two other parents, we raised our concerns with the management.

We pointed out the lack of justification for the increase and proposed a few options like postponing or staggering the increase over the months till the next academic year or an even more reasonable increase like 10 per cent with further adjustments the next academic year.

We pointed out that we were "trapped" as the announcement had come four months after the academic year had started. Any changes now would be disruptive and sudden as our children were preparing for Primary 1 next year.

Moreover, we had just made payment for graduation at the end of the year. We did not receive any advance notice on the increase at all - at least not from the Bishan branch.

The centre management confirmed that their decision was final and would not go back on the decision to raise fees.

I then raised the issue with the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS).

But the ministry's stance was disappointing - somewhat vague. It indicated that it did not have any say over the running of each childcare centre and that it provided only guidelines and that ultimately, the decision would lie with the respective centres.

I am concerned over the role of MCYS as a regulatory body. Apart from providing guidelines, it is also the one to grant licences to childcare operators.

Guidelines as to the timing of fee increases and the maximum amount of increase should be stipulated and regulated as well. Why should its role be limited? And can the Education Ministry come into the picture at this stage?

Where else can distressed parents like us seek recourse?

Cheryl Lye-Chee (Mrs)

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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