Govt, private sector to explore having foreign live-in caregivers for seniors in shared apartments
The Government is embarking on a new project to explore whether it is feasible to have live-in foreign workers to help care for several seniors sharing an apartment.
The new development comes five months after the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that it was looking into Red Crowns Senior Living for allegedly flouting the law for hiring foreign maids by having the employment of these workers come under two of its elderly clients living in a unit.
Red Crowns Senior Living is the first company here to offer seniors shared rental apartments with live-in maid services.
The government project, called the Shared Stay-In Senior Care Services sandbox, is a collaboration between the Ministry of Health (MOH), MOM and the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) to explore the feasibility of having a foreign live-in caregiver to help care for several seniors in one apartment.
Five private companies have been shortlisted to join forces with the government agencies in this latest initiative.
They are Red Crowns, St Bernadette Assisted Living, Econ Health & Wellness, Active Global Respite Care and TS Care Services.
According to the MOH website, a regulatory sandbox is an initiative to better understand new innovative services through working early with the industry.
This allows the Government to review effective, efficient and appropriate ways to support innovative technologies, products and services.
MOH has spoken to private companies, seniors and caregivers to hear their views on how the private sector can offer alternative eldercare options.
An MOH spokesman said a “design thinking sprint” – an intense four-day approach to map out challenges, explore solutions and pick the best ones – was held with companies across various industries from February to March 2023 to mull over assisted living models that could help seniors to better age in the community.
“The Shared Stay-in Senior Care Services sandbox is one initiative that has developed out of such dialogues.
“The call for applications was made on the AIC website on Sept 14 and applications closed on Oct 6. Red Crowns Senior Living is one of the five applicants that have been shortlisted after submitting an application to participate in the sandbox,” he said.
This pilot project looks into new models of care provided by the private sector to widen the range of eldercare solutions in Singapore, and a key aim is to provide seniors and their families greater assurance of round-the-clock support.
Red Crowns was set up in February 2021 by Mr Joshua Goh, 43, who had trouble finding quality residential care services for his father.
Seeing the growing demand for assisted living facilities apart from nursing care facilities, which are more appropriate for seniors who are ill and need more care than relatively healthy older people, he set up a senior co-living service.
Under its model of assisted co-living, Red Crowns rents Housing Board and condominium units, matches four seniors to each unit, and has them looked after by two foreign domestic workers – usually new hires, with two of the clients in the unit named as employers.
But the authorities became concerned that such an unusual model for eldercare may have breached regulations.
Posting about Red Crowns on its Facebook page in June, MOM said it had “serious concerns about RCSL’s operating model as it could compromise the interests of its elderly clients and well-being of the migrant domestic workers (MDWs)”.
It opened a probe into Red Crowns’ operations and said investigations went as far back as November 2021.
The Straits Times understands that the findings of the MOM investigation are still pending.
Mr Goh, who is Red Crowns’ founder and CEO, said its goal remains the same.
“We remain committed to effectively solving the challenges faced by senior co-living spaces. We are thankful to be working with a government that is adaptable and, more importantly, willing to listen to the needs of its people and work with them to develop a new paradigm,” he said.
After media reports about the probe and letters of support to ST Forum by families of seniors in the co-living homes, Red Crowns met MOH, MOM and AIC on Aug 11 to discuss a collaboration and to participate in the sandbox project.
Mr Goh told ST that Red Crowns had submitted a proposal in July for the centralised hiring of foreign caregivers under Red Crowns with a quota system based on the total number of senior residents it serves.
Since then, Red Crowns has been actively involved in discussions on the sandbox with the policymakers to offer a better understanding of the challenges faced by a senior co-living space service provider.
“Through this sandbox, Red Crowns will continue on its journey to becoming the preferred care provider in the community we serve and look forward to continuing to support the Government’s efforts in developing proper standards that best suit our elderly population,” said Mr Goh, who is an architect by profession.
Some other proposals being discussed include allowing companies to hire both male and female foreign caregivers, increasing the work permit quota, developing effective ways to track the work hours of these foreign workers and recognising their higher-skill status.
Red Crowns currently charges from $2,200 a month for a room with two occupants in an HDB flat, to $5,000 a month for a single-occupant room with an en suite bathroom in a condominium unit. The rates include the concierge fee, monthly rental, monthly salaries and other expenses.
“We are also actively looking for ways to bring down the cost of our care services where we are able to make our solution more affordable and accessible,” Mr Goh said.
These include the various financial aid schemes from AIC that may be applicable to the seniors at Red Crowns. They include the Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund, the Home Caregiving Grant and the Pioneer Generation Disability Assistance Scheme.
To date, Red Crowns has served 250 clients and has the capacity to provide 150 beds.