Chaotic roll-out of child care subsidy program draws criticism
Taipei, Aug. 1 (CNA) A nationwide child care subsidy program that came into effect Wednesday as part of the government's efforts to reverse Taiwan's low birth rate has attracted criticism from parents, government-contracted kindergartens and babysitters, citing a failure to publicize relevant measures in advance.
Under the program, parents who qualify will receive a monthly subsidy of NT$6,000 (US$196) for each child up to the age of two who attends a semi-public private kindergarten or are looked after by babysitters who sign a contract with the government.
However, the the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) only unveiled the guidelines on applications for payments to government-contracted baby care service providers on Tuesday evening, drawing complaints from babysitters and child care centers who were unable to sign contracts with the government before the launch of the program.
Meanwhile, the ministry's welfare consultation hotline 1957, which integrates various services and resources from public and private institutions, was flooded with calls from those wanting information about the new policy.
When asked about the chaotic roll-out of the new subsidy program, Cabinet spokesperson Kolas Yotaka (谷辣斯．尤達卡) said in a radio interview Wednesday that the number of hotline calls demonstrates the demand for the subsides, though she did admit that the government had been slow in making information available to the public.
However, since the policy was announced in May, the MOHW and Ministry of Education have been engaged in talks with local governments on ways to implement the program, Kolas said, adding that there is a two-month grace period to implement the program and parents, babysitters and institutions need not worry.
According to the ministry, there are about 25,000 babysitters and 700 private child care institutions nationwide and after the new program is up and running, 85 percent of babysitters and 75 percent of institutions are expected to sign up.
The Cabinet stressed that babysitters and private child care institutions that sign contracts with the government before Sept. 30, will receive subsidies for child care services in August and September.
Minister Without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (林萬億) said the budget for the nationwide program has been allocated under a national infrastructure development program, with the government using NT$35.8 billion in an effort to boost the country's birth rate. The program is expected to benefit 860,000 preschoolers by August next year.
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