Jun 14, 2013

    Childcare could be cheaper soon

    PARENTS could end up paying lower fees to send their kids to private childcare centres under a revised tender-evaluation process for such centres at Housing Board premises.

    Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing announced that, from today, the evaluation will comprise five criteria: Tendered price, track record, community assistance and integration, quality and affordability.

    Previously, bidding for HDB sites by commercial operators was based solely on bid price. The revised bidding process, where only half the criteria considers the tendered price, is a joint effort by the Early Childhood Development Agency and HDB.

    During a visit to Agape Child Care centre in Jurong West yesterday, Mr Chan said: "We hope some of the operators will translate the savings to lower fees, so more...middle- to lower-income (families) can enjoy the services (the operators) provide."

    Childcare centres cater to children aged between 18 months and six years.

    The affordability criterion looks at whether a tenderer's proposed childcare fees are relative to the median fees for commercial operators in HDB premises.

    Mr Chan hopes that, over time, childcare fees will "stay around the median or below the median", as the aim is to provide for the mass market.

    Currently, the median monthly childcare fee is $748 for commercial childcare centres located in HDB sites. There are 196 such centres.

    The median monthly fee for anchor-operator centres at HDB sites is $615.

    Such centres are run by the PAP Community Foundation and the National Trades Union Congress' My First Skool. They provide affordable and quality programmes and, in return, receive government grants to lower operating costs.

    Private operators who successfully bid for HDB sites will be obliged to keep the prices stable within a three-year contract.

    The criterion for quality of programmes considers the training of early-childhood professional staff.

    The move will hopefully help retain good teachers, said parent Jean Chai, 36, who has observed that the turnover rate of teachers is quite high.

    The private tutor has three children aged between three and six years in childcare.

    Mr Chris Lim, director of private childcare operator Agape Little Uni, said: "(The new process) will increase the quality of childcare operators and ensure that (they) are committed."

    Agape Little Uni charges an average fee of $1,000 a month at its five childcare centres situated at HDB void decks.