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PETALING JAYA, Oct 28 — The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry is looking into how it can assist legalising currently-unlicensed childcare centres, and possibly even provide funding assistance especially for those catering to the B40 category.
Its deputy minister Hannah Yeoh said a major barrier to the centres set up in residential areas from registering with the authorities is often the refusal of the surrounding residents.
“A lot of people do not want such centres next door to them, as they claim the children make a lot of noise,” she said during a Deepavali event organised by the Taman Tun Dr Ismail Market Traders and Hawkers Association.
Often, operators of childcare centres will have already complied with two of the three steps needed when it comes to setting up, by obtaining approval from the Health Ministry and the Fire and Rescue Department.
“However problems arise with the local authorities when they approach the residents for input and consent.
“Many of these operators have spent considerable personal funds to set up their businesses, sometimes even taking bank loans to do so,” Yeoh said.
She appealed to residents’ associations and neighbourhood watches to understand the plight of the childcare industry, and engage with them.
By doing so they can also resolve the potential issues of noise pollution and parking should they arise.
“The primary reason why the centres exist in neighbourhoods is to cater for the surrounding community to begin with.
“Not many can afford to build a specialised building just for childcare, hence why many operators choose to set up in corner unit houses,” she said.
On its part, Yeoh said her ministry has also requested the list of operators whose registration have been rejected, from the Housing and Local Government Ministry.
“We want to look into how we can legalise them, since there is a high priority on a national level,” she said.
Yeoh said her ministry might consider subsidising the operational costs of childcare centres in order to encourage them to register.
“Currently the government is only subsiding childcare costs for civil servants, where families earning under RM5,000 monthly can claim up to RM180 per child.
“Given the expenses of childcare especially in KL, many families especially in the B40 segment cannot afford them,” she said.
However, Yeoh said expanding the subsidy for the B40 category is something the ministry is still pursuing on a Cabinet level.
“We are also considering engaging with utility companies, to see if they will consider charging residential rates to childcare centres registered with the Welfare Department, instead of commercial rates, as the centres hold business licenses,” she said.
The New Straits Times recently reported that the Welfare Department’s information indicated there were only 4,302 registered childcare centres nationwide.
Of this list, only 3,173 of the 16,873 caregivers are certified, with the remainder not meeting the minimum requirements as caregivers.