On Oct. 9, it was announced that the Singapore government will be providing a one-off Baby Support Grant (BSG) of S$3,000, for babies born from Oct. 1, 2020 to Sep. 30, 2022, in order to help couples defray child-raising costs during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some Members of Parliament (MPs) raised concerns about the start date of the grant eligibility, urging the government to consider pushing it earlier.
In a speech in Parliament on Thursday (Oct. 15), Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah responded to feedback about the grant, and announced that the BSG will be extended to parents of babies born before Oct. 1, but whose certified estimated delivery date was on or after Oct. 1.
Several MPs pushed for extending the start date
MPs Louis Chua, Saktiandi Supaat, Joan Pereira, and He Tingru shared in their speeches on Wednesday and Thursday that their residents had raised concerns about why the BSG does not include parents whose babies were born prior to Oct. 1.
They appealed to the government to consider extending the eligibility for the BSG to babies born earlier, either since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic or the beginning of 2020.
Indranee said in her speech that she "fully understand[s]" that parents who are not eligible for the BSG are disappointed, and shared the government's considerations in designing the scheme.
Provide extra support so couples don't postpone parenthood plans
A survey conducted by the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) in Jun. 2020 found that three out of 10 Singaporean couples said that they were planning to delay having a child due to Covid-19.
Surveyed couples' concerns included the global pandemic, and job and income insecurity.
Indranee stated that the idea for BSG was to supplement the existing Baby Bonus Cash Gift, in order to provide extra support for parents who want to have a child, so that they don't postpone their parenthood plans.
She said that if the government had taken a "very strict approach", they would have set the start date as nine months after the date of announcement, or July 2021.
However, doing so would leave out all babies born between now and Jul. 2021.
Another plan had been to roll out the scheme as part of Budget 2021, with effect from Jan. 1, 2021, Indranee said.
"However, we felt it was important to get the support out as quickly as we can, to help more Singaporeans with their parenthood aspirations.
Announcing the plans next year could mean that parents may delay attempts to have a child in the meantime."
Thus, they decided to set the start date to the month of the announcement — Oct. 1, 2020.
Regardless of start date, some babies will be born prior
While Indranee acknowledged the disappointment of parents ineligible for the BSG, she also asked for the public's understanding.
She said that there have been a wide range of suggestions for the start date, from September 2020, to the start of the Circuit Breaker, to when DORSCON Orange was announced, to the start of 2020, and even 2019.
One suggestion was even to extend the grant to children under the age of seven years old.
"Regardless of the effective start date, there will always be some babies who are born before it," said Indranee.
However, she said, the government will extend the grant for one specific group of parents: those whose babies were born premature, prior the cut-off date of Oct. 1, but whose certified estimated delivery date was on or after Oct. 1.
The National Population and Talent Division will provide more information about how this group of parents can receive the grant. More information on the details to be submitted for such cases can also be found here.
Other support provided
Indranee also reminded the House about the other forms of support that the government has provided to parents over the years, as well as to Singaporeans during the pandemic.
Through the Marriage and Parenthood Package, parents of children who were born prior to Oct. 1 and are not eligible for the BSG can still receive S$18,000 in cash and "cash-like" support for their first child, through a variety of grants and co-savings accounts.
She also pointed to free immunisations and developmental screenings from Nov. 1, 2020 for all Singaporean children on the national schedule at all polyclinics and Community Health Assist Scheme General Practitioners (CHAS GPs).
"This Government remains committed to supporting the marriage and parenthood aspirations of Singaporeans, and we will continue to review and enhance the strong suite of measures already in place to help Singaporeans form and grow families," Indranee said.
Totally unrelated but follow and listen to our podcast here
Top photo by kazuend on Unsplash.