The 1,803 parents currently benefitting from the new government financial assistance for childcare can expect to be regularly notified of the payment status of the support through SMS messaging, through a new information system aimed at furthering the customer support aspect of this help.
During a press conference yesterday afternoon at the Institute of Early Childhood Development (IECD) headquarters, Le Chantier Mall, details about the new supporting service were made known by the chief executive of the Agency for Social Protection (ASP) Marcus Simeon and chief executive of the IECD Shirley Choppy, who made note of complaints received from parents, the direct beneficiaries of the assistance, that they are unaware about the status of monthly payments, and that on some cases service providers are reluctant to provide information about payments.
Under the new financial assistance, introduced by the government in April this year, all parents with children enrolled in a registered day care and childminding service are entitled to receive a sum of R750 per child per month and this assistance is paid directly to the service providers on behalf of the parents. The assistance should therefore be deducted from the service-providers’ fee, and parents are to pay the remaining balance (parents save R750 per month). On average, childcare services range between R1,500 and R2,000 on a monthly basis.
The IECD is responsible for registration, management and promotion of the financial assistance, while ASP’s role is to ensure the processing of payments.
The initiative to ensure that beneficiaries remain informed and most importantly, address communication issues between service-providers and parents, was spearheaded by ASP in collaboration with the Central Bank of Seychelles (CBS). Through the new application, beneficiaries are automatically notified on the payment status of the financial assistance. It is worth noting that the ASP also provides a monthly payroll to the service providers for their verification and records purposes.
“It has actually helped to minimise the number of calls and complaints. We just wanted to clarify and let parents know that they will be receiving texts, up until their children reach three yearsold when they progress to crèche,” Mrs Choppy noted.
Over the months, the number of beneficiaries is steadily increasing as more parents become aware of the assistance, and more turn towards registered child care services providers. In March, prior to President Danny Faure’s state of the nation address in which the scheme was announced across the board as opposed to based on means testing, a total of 480 beneficiaries were on record as compared to 1,803 beneficiaries as of August 31.
The scheme has also served to encourage more childcare service providers to register their respective institutions or services through IECD.
“There were some individuals who are minding children but who were yet to be registered, so with the announcement of the scheme, they shown an interest to follow our training. At the start of the year we had only about 15 persons who had shown an interest in receiving training, but after the announcement, we had about 60, as they need to receive the training prior to being registered, and qualifying to benefit from the assistance,” Ms Choppy said.
Presently, there are 28 registered day care centres and 86 registered childminders, although IECD expects to have 100 registered childminders by the end of the year, as a group of individuals completed training last year and are to be certified during the coming weeks.
In line with its mandate to promote the holistic development of young children, IECD is conducting an assessment of early-learning readiness for three to four-year olds who are to be enrolled in crèche or pre-school in 2021. The aim of the project is to evaluate the development of young children from an academic and more holistic standpoint, as well as to determine the challenges that childcare service providers are faced with in preparing children for crèche. Furthermore, Ms Choppy said, IECD is interested in collecting data about the various socio-economic factors that impact on learning and readiness.
IECD in 2017 and 2018 conducted an assessment exercise at day care facilities and in 2019 started assessing children’s readiness to enter crèche at home. Results from the assessment exercises are indicative that efforts are bearing fruit, as results from last year indicate that at least 88 percent of children of a group of 178 study subjects were found to be ready for school and the formal education system.
As of next week, a group of data collectors, all of whom have been trained and are experienced in childcare will be conducting the assessment exercise with the second cohort at the 28 registered day care centres and the 75 parents who are also registered. The assessment is expected to last two months, and results shared with the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development and the various schools to better help pupils to progress further.
Laura Pillay – Nation.sc