GEORGE TOWN: Almost half of Penang’s 351 childcare centres are not registered with the Social Welfare Department, and the state government is urging them to comply with the law or face closure.

Penang social development committee chairman Chong Eng revealed that 210 such centres are registered while 141 are not.

“For childcare centres for children aged four and above, there are 119 registered and 45 unregistered ones.

“For centres that cater to children aged seven to 12, we identified 91 registered and 96 unregistered ones,” she said yesterday.

She said that although repeated warnings were issued and regulations relaxed to ease their registration, many operators still failed to do so.

“If they get themselves registered, we can monitor them and channel aid or assistance. If they fail to do so, they risk being closed,” said.

Chong said among the relaxation of rules were discounts in the use-conversion of their premises and on mandatory rates for parking spaces by local councils.

“Instead of charging by square metres, it costs only a flat rate of RM1,000 now for the conversion.

“Operators also no longer need to pay the full parking rate at their premises.”

Chong urged the operators to be responsible.

“There can be no more excuses. If they cannot comply, maybe they should stop their business,” she said.

Unfortunately, Chong said there was a high demand for childcare centres, especially with maids being unavailable.

Many working parents continue to send their children there and authorities are reluctant to shut the businesses down for social reasons.

There has not been any report of misconduct at any of the 351 centres, but Chong urged parents to be vigilant and ensure that the centres they choose are fit for their children.

“It would be good if parents visit and learn about the centres before enrolling their children.

“Technology has made it easier for parents to get updates on their children and monitor operations,” she said.