By Leong Sze Hian
In the morning of Wednesday, 12 June, I received a whatsapp message “If I speak at hlp (Hong Lim park) this Saturday
Begging for mercy for a single mother who throw her son out of the window
Would u support?
With most existing single mothers”
– from Vivian Pan, whom I met at the May Day event organized by Gilbert Goh of transitioning.org – she was 1 of the 11 speakers – she spoke about the plight of single mothers in Singapore
I whatsapped back – “sure, if u can please tell me more”
There followed several messages – I know how she felt and what she faced (referring to recent media reports about a 31 year old single mother who allegedly threw her 9 year old son who was attending a special school [with a medical condition and disability which limits his mobility] from their HDB flat’s window – he died and she has been arrested and is undergoing psychiatric assessment or something). They were staying with his grandmother in a HDB flat.
Single mother has tough life
Her husband left her after making her pregnant
I will speak from my heart
My single mothers are all in favour to support me
She had unemployment
Survive on her old mum’s $1000 income
Confirmed coming Saturday 15th
5 – 7 pm registration successful
I don’t want anyone sun tanned
This is non political
Only beg for mercy for this single mother
I only expect 20 people attend
Lol if got 20 people come I happy Liao
I got no stage
I only got a loud speaker
I cannot do much
This is the most I can do for this single mother inside a cold lockup … Crying in tears
I’m a mother. I feel for her
I do my homework
(edited slightly and reproduced with Vivian’s permission)
I salute Vivian for her courage and empathy
Support Vivian and single mothers – come to speakers’ corner this Saturday, 15 June 5 to 7 pm
In my 10-plus years doing financial counseling for the needy and cash-strapped as a volunteer, I have come across scores of single mothers and fathers.
Single parents’ problems?
Some of their issues that I have encountered are:
… Single unwed mothers are not eligible for the Baby Bonus or the dollar-for-dollar matching for the child development account
… Single unwed mothers are not considered as a family nucleus for HDB BTO application or family housing grants
Must buy under singles scheme to buy resale only if they are age 35 and above (note: from 1 July 2013, singles 35 and over with income not exceeding $5,000 can apply for 2-room BTO)
… Divorced single parents whose homes were sold as part of the divorce settlement, typically have to wait for 30 months before they can apply for a new HDB BTO flat or a HDB rental flat
… Discrimination by employers
… Difficulty in finding flexible work arrangements
… Lack of social and financial support
… Financial assistance eligibility criteria generally do not take into account special circumstances like a child with physical or learning disabilities or medical conditions. In other words, the household income, per capita income, type of housing, assets, etc, criteria generally do not take into account any special needs or circumstances, or that the person is a single parent
… No Medishield insurance cover for children born with congenital conditions or health problems (this policy was revised about a year ago to insure such new-born children, but may have exclusions for existing children who could not be insured previously)
… Single unwed mothers are only allowed to rent 1-room HDB rental flat and not 2-room, regardless of the number of occupier family members
… Single unwed mothers are not eligible for the 4th month maternity leave funding (note: this was revised a few months ago to put them on par with married mothers)
… Single unwed mothers are not eligible for the parenthood tax rebate
… Single unwed mothers were denied childcare and infant care leave which were only extended to them in March 2013
… Lack of affordable daycare, childcare, kindergarten facilities for children with disabilities
… Difficulty in obtaining citizenship or PR for the children if the single mother is not a citizen
… Difficulty in getting a long-term visit pass or PR if they eventually find a spouse who is a non-citizen
… Foreign single mothers with children fathered by Singaporeans are basically not eligible or have very limited access to some of the assistance schemes, despite their children being Singaporeans
I understand that there is only 1 VWO that caters to such single mothers
… Under constant pressure to get married in order to be eligible for some schemes
… HOPE scheme was generally not available to single mothers or divorced parents in the early years of the scheme
How many single parents are there in Singapore now?
According to the Department of Statistics’ Population Trends 2012, the general divorce has increased from 6.5 to 7.6 for men and 6.5 to 7.2 for women, from 2000 to 2011. The number of divorces has been increasing from 5,137 in 2000 to 7,604 in 2011.
According to the article “It’s about time single parents got some recognition” (Singapolitics, Mar 15) – ”There are about 2,000 teenage pregnancies a year, according to Government statistics. This works out to be about 4 per cent of the total number of births every year.
More than just the numbers alone many of the single mothers also tend to be those who have fallen through the cracks.
In 2008, a study of teenage pregnancies was conducted in a review of the KK Hospital’s Clinic for the Adolescent Pregnant.
Thirty per cent of the 43 surveyed in the study smoked while many of them were out of school and working.
Forty-nine percent of these adolescents had only one sexual partner, while 51 per cent had more than one sexual partner.”
It is hard enough to be a single parent.
All policies that directly or indirectly discriminate against single unwed mothers or single parents and consequently their children, should be reviewed and removed, as they may be in breach of article 29 (3) of the of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, which states that “Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. Every child, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection”.