A pilot scheme has thrown a lifeline to families in urgent need of a maid, allowing them to get help in days, instead of months.
Since August, the Advance Placement Scheme, which is facilitated by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), has matched 30 foreign domestic workers with families here which need help urgently.
The programme is open to employers who are hiring a foreign domestic worker to care for a child, elderly person or person with disability living at the same registered address as them.
"Some households have more urgent needs for foreign domestic workers to give care to their elderly or young children," noted an MOM spokesman.
Hence, the ministry has decided to facilitate the scheme that was proposed to it by employment agencies, she said.
The spokesman added: "Under this pilot, approved employment agencies are allowed to source for and bring in a specific number of foreign domestic workers with relevant caregiving skills and then match them with households that have urgent caregiving needs, such as for young children and elderly."
Currently, nine employment agencies are allowed under the scheme to bring foreign domestic helpers to Singapore before they are hired by an employer.
The usual practice is for employers to interview potential helpers while they are in their home countries through Skype or phone. Only after an employer decides to hire a helper, does the process of bringing the latter to Singapore start.
Employment agencies said the scheme, which is being tried out for a year, has shortened the wait for a helper from up to two months to just three days.
Employers who hire a helper under the scheme pay a premium, typically a few hundred dollars more than usual fees.
Carene Chin, managing director of employment agency Homekeeper, said before the initiative was started, the only option for employers in urgent need of help was to seek out transfer maids.
"But there aren't many of them to begin with... they may not have the necessary caregiving skills so employers are often left feeling helpless," she said.
Yorelle Kalika, chief executive of Active Global Specialised Caregivers, an agency that brings in maids with nursing skills, has often come across clients in urgent need of a caregiver for a relative about to be discharged from hospital.
"In situations like these, a quick and efficient solution is the most important," she said.
Through the scheme, accountant Joey Lee, 38, found a caregiver with medical training for her cancer-stricken father in just six days from Active Global last month.
Hospital staff had told Ms Lee her father would not be discharged unless he had a full-time caregiver as they felt her mother needed help.
Ms Lee would normally have had to wait for at least two to three weeks.
"It would have been very stressful," she said.
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