SINGAPORE: Student care subsidy under an assistance scheme will be increased for lower-income families starting Jul 1 this year, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim announced on Thursday (Mar 5).
Eligible families will have their student care fees subsidised by up to S$60 more each month under the Student Care Fee Assistance (SCFA) scheme, he said.
Speaking in Parliament during MSF’s Committee of Supply session, Associate Professor Faishal added that to benefit more families, MSF will also raise the monthly household income cap to qualify for the subsidy from S$4,000 to S$4,500, and the per capita income from S$1,000 to S$1,125.
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Around 9,000 students will benefit from these enhancements this year, Assoc Prof Faishal said.
Overall, fees for registered Student Care Centres (SCCs), including those in the community, have remained stable, Assoc Prof Faishal said. The current median fee is S$295 per month, close to the median of S$290 per month in 2015, he said.
For school-based SCCs, the Ministry of Education puts in place measures to keep fees affordable, he said.
Operators are selected via a competitive procurement process, where they are required to state any proposed fee increases throughout their six-year contract upfront. This is taken into account as part of the bidding evaluation criteria. Contract specifications also limit the types of fees that operators can charge.
“We want to ensure that student care remains affordable, especially for lower-income families,” said Assoc Prof Faishal.
YOUTH MENTAL WELL-BEING NETWORK
MSF will be establishing a Youth Mental Well-being Network, minister Desmond Lee also said on Thursday.
The latest Singapore Mental Health Study noted that young people between 18 and 34 years of age had a higher prevalence of mental health conditions, compared to older people, Mr Lee said.
“Mental health issues are complex, but prevention, early detection and intervention can go a long way to help,” he said.
Last month, Mr Lee made an open call for people interested in the topic of youth mental well-being to step forward to contribute ideas and turn these ideas into reality.
In total, more than 700 individuals and organisations have responded, and the number continues to grow, Mr Lee said.
READ: Mental health support service for at-risk youths to be launched this year – MOH
Many are young people who are concerned by this issue and want to do something about it, he added.
“Some have struggled with mental health issues, some are caregivers or therapists of people with mental health issues,” he said.
Everyone who stepped forward during the open call will have an opportunity to be part of this network, he added.
“We will get to know one other, identify areas to collaborate, and work together to deliver programmes and interventions to better support our youths. The work is just beginning. In a way, how we intend to do this is uncharted waters,” he said.
He noted that some early ideas include providing information and raising awareness about available resources, so that people know where to go for help and to do so earlier.
“I hope many Singaporeans will partner us to jointly develop solutions for a happier and healthier Singapore. Our young people deserve the best start in life possible,” he said.
While mental health is not a new area for MSF, “we are keenly aware of the issues and struggles faced by those who have mental health issues”, Mr Lee said.
“A person’s mental well-being affects their families, neighbours, colleagues and friends. It is more than a medical issue faced by an individual.”