|The Star 4 January 2012|
This is becoming an increasing phenomenon in Malaysia nowadays as divorce rates soar.
We seldom think of men as single parents. But the recent case in Penang of a father who chained his six years old daughter and two years old son in the toilet when he went out to work has brought home to us that single parents do not just involve the women only.
The Penang man's Thai wife had allegedly left him and he was at his wits' end, not knowing what to do with his children who he feared could be up to mischief if he just left them in the house.
Whether the single parent is a man or woman, the responsibility of providing for and looking after the children is compounded, especially when most families nowadays are nuclear families instead of the extended families where grandparents and/or relatives may be available to help look after the children.
The problem is further compounded where the couple had relied on joint incomes and now the single parent has to rely on just a single income. And with the cost of living soaring, the single parent has to supplement his or her income with a second or even a third job!
Paying for childcare is also very expensive and will eat into if not completely wipe out the single parent's income(s).
Is there help for the single parent faced with difficulty in looking after and providing for his/her children?
As far as I know there is no ready source of help. I don't think that the Welfare Department has any scheme for the purpose.
Datuk Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, the Women, Family and Community Development Minister, whose family is now embroiled in the "cowgate" scandal, however, has said that her ministry had set up child activity centres to assist in the caring and supervision of working parents with children and that parents could send their children to these government-run daycare centres.
However, only children below four could be admitted? She also added, according to the Star newspaper report (4 Jan 2012) that parents who could not afford to send their children to these centres could apply for financial assistance.
Is this widely made known to the Malaysian public? And is assistance readily available when applied for? What are the criteria?
How come nobody knew of this until now?