(Photo: Shin Min Daily News)

A Housing Board flat in Toa Payoh has allegedly been used to run an illegal night-time childcare centre, caring for more than 10 children.

In response to The Sunday Times yesterday, an HDB spokesman said that although residents can use flats to run small businesses, childcare centres are not allowed. "We are investigating the case with the relevant authorities," said the HDB.

Residents at the block told Shin Min Daily News that parents take their children to the flat every day after 6pm. The children are mostly of primary school age, but some are as young as five years old, Shin Min reported yesterday.

"The children usually stay there for some hours. Some even spend the night there, and the parents pick them up the next day," said a resident whose name was not given.

A resident, who declined to be named, told Shin Min that the owner of the flat had started renting it out one or two years ago.

When asked by Shin Min, a male tenant at the flat denied that he was running a "childcare centre". He said: "I'm just helping my friends look after their kids. There are more than 10 of them. I receive some money to help out with family expenses."

The man, who is in his 50s, said the parents who take their children there are from China. He added that he resorted to housing the children as he had been unemployed for six years.

He was previously an art teacher in Hong Kong and Macau, where he lived for more than 10 years. But when he returned here, he could not find a job. "I have a son who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder at home, so I give tuition at home, and help my friends look after their kids to pay the bills," he said.

Shin Min checked with the landlord, who said she was unaware of the activities going on and would immediately find out more from the housing agent.

The HDB spokesman said: "While residents may use their flats to carry out home-based small-scale informal businesses under the Home Based Small Scale Business Scheme, childcare centres are not allowed."

The spokesman added that HDB had not previously received feedback about childcare services being provided in the flat.

Written by Lydia Lam for The Straits Times