New child-care related schemes announced this year

More government subsidies for childcare services.

When: January

What: The subsidies, which were handed out from April, are for working mothers and tiered according to household income, with the lower-income families receiving the most support.

Families with monthly household incomes of $2,500 or less will be subsidised up to $740 a month, making childcare virtually free as median fees are about $750.

Why: The move is aimed at helping low- to middle-income families cope with childcare costs and encourage families to have children.

New tender criteria for operators bidding for HDB sites.

When: June

What: Putting up the highest bid no longer guarantees a commercial operator a much-coveted HDB site.

The authorities now look at a range of factors, such as the quality of its programmes and its fees, under the new tender criteria. The bid price makes up only half the score.

Why: This could lead to more affordable childcare services.

The previous practice of awarding HDB sites based solely on price had sparked bidding wars among operators and often led to higher fees for parents.

Anchor operator scheme expanded to include for-profit operators.

When: June

What: The scheme was previously opened only to non-profit operators. The anchor operators - usually the bigger players - get government help such as rental subsidies and priority in securing HDB premises.

In exchange, they have to keep fees below the industry median, which is about $788 a month for a full-day childcare programme.

Currently, there are two anchor operators, NTUC's My First Skool and the PAP Community Foundation.

Under the new scheme, commercial operators can also apply for grants to set up centres in the heartland.

They are required to keep fees below $720 a month for full-day childcare. The new anchor operators will be made known at year's end.

Why: The move is aimed at providing cheaper and better pre-school programmes for the mass market.

Funding support for smaller operators with social mission.

When: August

What: Under the new scheme, centres run by voluntary welfare organisations are eligible for grants, which can cover half of the start-up costs for new centres in HDB estates. Previously, they received grants of up to 20 per cent.

Why: To support smaller operators which do not qualify for other schemes, and may be squeezed out of the market.

More funds for operators to set up centres in high-demand areas.

When: September

What: Small and medium-sized operators, including commercial ones, can apply for rental subsidies of 30 to 60 per cent when they set up centres in commercial premises, such as malls or in areas with high demand for childcare services. These areas include Punggol and Woodlands.

Previously, subsidies were given to eligible operators only for centres in HDB premises.

But operators must keep fees below $850 a month for full-day childcare programmes.

To house the new centres, developers of commercial premises will also be given incentives - in the form of more floor area - when they set aside space for childcare facilities.

Why: To ease the childcare crunch in high-demand areas.

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