Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Wednesday March 28th 2018

22-year-old unwed mum of two kids soon manages with $350/month in government’s aid

Visited another 22-year-old single unwed mum at Bukit Batok West last week and it took me an hour to locate the new government rental flat under the blazing hot sun.

You have to go through a beehive of many other brand-new HDB blocks before reaching the family and I wonder how this young unwed mum of a 4-year-old daughter and soon-coming baby ever step out of the home to get her basic grocery items.

The unit is located near to the corner giving it much privacy and seclusion but as many other units are still unoccupied I posed the question if it is safe living all alone with her young daughter so far away from civilisation.

“Ya it can be quite quiet and frightening at night as many neighbours have yet to move in,” qulped Jennifer the petite small-built unwed mum who first gave birth at age 18 years old.

She manages to take possession of the rental flat just after a month of application from HDB and the move has being hasty and swift. I can still smell the new paint on the wall and everything in the house looks clean and tidy with many second-hand furniture passed on by well-wishers.

She left home at 17 years old to stay with her boyfriend one eventful day after yet another row with her parents and it was not long after that Lynn her daughter was conceived. Together they tried to bring up the young daughter the best they could even though marriage is not on the cards for the young couple.

After leaving the boyfriend, she went on to live with her other friends dragging her young daughter along in the ordeal.

She also left school after failing to complete her secondary school education and took on some part-time work in order to survive.

Soft-spoken, petite and shy, Jennifer could pass off as any school-going tertiary student but come next month, she will be a mother of two kids. While many 22-year-old parties away or try to acquire higher education, Jennifer has to stay at home alot to attend to her young daughter and an addition soon to the family.

“I will be giving birth soon next month,” she told me as her hands caressed the new-born in her grown tummy.

I dare not ask who the father is as it is a sensitive question and I try to check more on how best we can assist the young family.

She requested for more milk powder for her 4-year-old daughter who is sleeping soundly on a Queen-size bed while we chatted on the small sofa tucked away at a corner.

“She is still heavily dependent on milk,” Jennifer says. Our donor has seem delivered two cans of NAN milk powder to the unwed single mum.

Fewer babies have been born out of wedlock to Singaporean mothers in the past decade, from 1,152 in 2006 to 863 in 2015 – a 25 per cent drop (Straits Times). Of course, many prefer to abort their unplanned pregnancies and the yearly figure must be at least five figure.

Singaporean children born to unwed parents from Sept 1, 2016 can get the $3000 government’s top-up in the Child Development Account (CDA), a savings account that can be used for childcare fees and medical expenses.

The government will also match the mother’s CDA top-up subject to a cap and their paid maternity leave will extend to 16 weeks instead of the usual 8 weeks only.

The government’s recent improved assistance scheme for unwed mothers is laudable as this vulnerable group will need all the help they can get. Employment for our young unwed mums with minimal education and low skill-sets will be tough and I am sure that the kids will likewise struggle alongside with the mum’s fragile livelihood.

My second trip to visit a young unwed mum shows that they are very vulnerable still because of their youth and many struggle with financial difficulties especially when it concerns the welfare of their children. Many want the best for their kids but there is so much you can do given the lack of access to viable state financial assistance and their poor employment situation.

“I manage to obtain $350/month welfare from the SSO nearby but its tough to juggle this amount with the rental payment, expenses for the kid and my own personal expenditure,” Jennifer poured out as her daughter tossed on the bed nearby.

The one-room flat costs close to $99/month in rent and it has to be paid first so that the young family is assured of a roof over their head. After the payment of utilities and other essential bills, there is nothing much left behind for anything else. As other kids from normal families enjoy access to enrichment and tuition lessons, kids from unwed mums often struggle just to have food placed on the table for basic survival.

She is also looking into placing the 4-year-old into nursery school but the new area plus finances are the main deterrances. She has yet to really explore the childcare centres around her area though and maybe will do so after giving birth to her second child soon.

I also realised that after visiting two unwed mums in a week, they tend to have very little support from their own families as many left home very early in their life due to personal family’s complications.

Its really a Catch-22 situation as if they can receive some form of family support, things will be so much better for these unwed single mums. The stigma and shame some unwed mums have put up with must be massive and damaging for them – especially if you have another kid born out of the wedlock again.

In fact, some of our volunteers are reluctant to provide any form of assistance to this group as they have lamented that a second birth born out of wedlock shows that they have never learnt their lesson.

I argued that we will only help the kids as they are innocent and have done nothing wrong. Even though children born out of wedlock numbers only below a thousand, these are still our kids and deserve the basic warmth and love any other child should have.

Already suffering from the lack of a fatherly figure at home plus a viable source of contribution from another parent, kids from unwed single mums should not suffer further discrimination from the community but should in fact receive much more compassion and support from us.

I left Jennifer after about an hour of visit knowing that at least she has a roof over her head and that each month she will receive $350 from the govenment’s welfare even though it is insufficient.

For sure, this unwed mum of two kids soon will struggle through livelihood and likewise her two children will also struggle alongside her but if the community extends a helping life-line it will be easier for the young family to bear.

Written by: Gilbert Goh

Editor’s note: If you want to provide any assistance to Jennifer and her two kids, please get in touch with us at gilbert@transitioning org.

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