This article was contributed by Julia Teo, Deputy Director of Operations at Busy Bees Asia.
Singaporeans’ average life expectancy is forecast to rise to 85.4 years in 2040, up from an average of 83.1 years in 2017. An increased life expectancy makes financial planning more challenging for everyone, and no one more so than parents of a child with added needs.
According to a survey by Lien Foundation, finances is a key concern that causes a lower level of satisfaction with relationships and life for parents of children with added needs, compared to parents of children with typical needs. Planning and saving for your child’s future education while they’re young, will not only help take the pressure off them, but also off your shoulders in the years ahead.
Here are three key steps that will assist you to create a secure financial game plan for you and your child with added needs:
Do Your Research
Doing your research refers to not only being acquainted with the various support options, but also an understanding of your child’s distinctive needs. Once you’re aware of the particular needs your child has, a great way to save financially would be to start looking for grants or subsidies that the government or relevant social bodies may have for support.
As part of a national push to become a more inclusive society through the Enabling Masterplan, Singapore has a robust framework to complement children with added needs and their families. This includes channelling a substantial amount of funding into helping children with added needs through various grants, study bursaries, assistive technology subsidies, and strengthening communities of support for both parents and children alike.
For example, the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) provides Learning Support Services for children with added needs. This specialised programme aims to help these children integrate into the mainstream education system through a mix of intervention for the child, together with parental support service. Being aware of all means and options available to you and your child, and establishing a plan is integral to help your child find their independent footing as they grow up and as parents age.
Investing In Early Intervention Will Save You More Than Money
Suspecting that your child may have added learning needs can be frightening for parents. The right education plan and targeted intervention are vital when it comes to addressing problems before they become more entrenched, especially among young children with added learning needs such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), ADHD, or speech and language delays.
Research has shown that the first seven years of a child’s life are an important period for his/her development intellectually, socially and emotionally. Early intervention within this the window of opportunity where your child is at his/her most optimal stage for learning and neural growth is critical in increasing their independent ability to integrate into social environments such as school, community, and ultimately employment. The most cost-effective approach for the family is thus to focus on early intervention, not late rehabilitation.
When selecting an early intervention option for your child, make sure you opt for an early childhood education (ECE) provider that provides full-time daycare incorporating early intervention and professional therapy into the base preschool curriculum. This removes the need for parents to send their child for additional sessions with a private therapist that can cost up to $200 an hour, depending on the intervention type and experience level of the therapist. Locating a one-stop and customised programme for your child not only provides you with a consistent and holistic development programme for your child, but also offers cost and time savings for parents.
Bright Path Inclusive Preschool is one of Singapore’s first all-inclusive preschools to provide such an integrated early intervention programme. It offers an individualized education plan with customized opportunities for learning for each child, and a small class ratio at 1:3. Each plan is crafted with expert input from its fleet of specialists, including educators, occupational and speech therapists, psychologists and healthcare professionals to provide children with the stepping stones they need to fulfil their unique potential.
Financial Trusts, Savings Plans And Subsidies
Parents who have children with added needs often worry about how their children will be cared for financially in their golden years. Consider setting up a trust, which is a way to manage, control and protect funds to make provisions for your child with added needs. A trust plays an important role in supporting caregivers in planning for the long-term financial and care needs of their dependents and helps to safeguard these assets to enhance their loved ones’ financial security and well-being.
In Singapore, you can set up a trust with Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC). It is the only non-profit trust company and is heavily subsidised by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) (up to 100%) to provide affordable trust services.
A trust can be complemented by the Special Needs Savings Scheme (SNSS), which enables parents to set aside the Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings for the long-term care of their children with special needs. This is especially beneficial if you have little in savings outside of CPF. SNSS allows them to nominate these children to receive a regular stream of fixed payouts upon their death. No fees are levied on the CPF members and the same interest rate as the parents’ CPF accounts will continue to be earned.
Every Singaporean and Singapore PR child is entitled to Enhanced Infant and Child Care subsidies in accordance with the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA)’s guidelines. These are provided to working and non-working mothers whose children are enrolled in a licensed centre, who can apply on your behalf.
The basic childcare subsidy ranges from $150 to $300 per child, depending on citizenship and employment status of the mother. Additional childcare subsidies are available for families with a household income of $7,500 or per capita income of $1,875 and below.
Additionally, the Enhanced Pilot for Private Intervention Providers (Enhanced PPIP) subsidy scheme offers more choices of early intervention programmes for children who have been referred for the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC). Bright Path is one of these selected private intervention centres appointed by MSF. Before enrolling in any preschool, speak to an educator and ask if there are subsidies that your family is eligible for.
Together, financial trusts, savings plans, and subsidies will go a long way towards lifting the financial burden off you as a parent, to ensure you focus on the things that truly matter, like nurturing your child and sharing precious time as a family.
Look Beyond Financial Planning
For parents of children with added needs, knowing what to do every step of the way can be a struggle. Navigating the maze of your child’s rights and needs, and your own, together with understanding the available resources is an ongoing process that will take time.
While you can build a strong financial game plan, these funds are a finite resource. It is imperative that children are empowered to be independent on their own life path, rather than solely relying on umbrella protection from parents.
We must accord our children respected ways of contributing to society through their unique gifts and abilities, and ensure that they can enjoy a high quality of life by nature of their own hands as well.
This will offer a holistic approach to planning and providing for your child with added needs, so they can learn, play and grow to their fullest potential.