Day nurseries have high enrolment rate
I WOULD like to respond to the article headlined, 'Fees confusion leaves creche places unfilled' (South China Morning Post, January 31).
The article incorrectly stated that there were 1,440 empty day care places and 23,768 empty nursery places.
In fact, the figures represented the provision of aided day creche and aided day nursery places as at the end of 1994/95 financial year.
You may like to know that day nurseries have a high enrolment rate of 95 per cent. As for day creches, there are 541 vacancies, which is far from the appalling figure reported in the article of '10,000 empty places at child care centres'.
The enrolment rate of day creches is affected by a number of factors including demographic changes in district besides the fee level. A review is underway with a view to identifying ways to improve the situation in day creche service.
On fee charging, at present the fees charged by a day creche are calculated on break-even basis to cover the operating cost. The Government provides a subsidy equivalent to five per cent of the total approved fee to cover deficits arising from fluctuations in enrolment and other unexpected increases in recognised expenditure.
Families with a low income and social needs to place their children in full day care can apply for my department's financial assistance under the Fee Assistance Scheme for Child Care Centres to cover the fee charged by child care centres.
The scheme provides financial assistance to these families on a means-tested basis.
Applications for fee assistance can be made to the Social Security Field Unit nearest to the applicant's home. In the 1994-95 school year, 64 per cent of all children attending day creches received fee assistance.
The maximum amount of fee assistance available to needy families in the 1995-96 school year is $3,445 per child per month.
Parents are informed about the Fee Assistance Scheme through regular publicity by press release, media interviews and information leaflets distributed at various contact points.
Application procedures have been streamlined and simplified. Applications are processed as quickly as possible provided that applicants have submitted all the required documents.
I hope these clarifications help rectify the misinformation in the article about the existing child care services available to the community.
PATRICIA CHU for Director of Social Welfare