Social workers can get powers to manage seniors' finances

Seniors without family support can soon turn to social workers to help manage their finances if they lose the ability to make decisions for themselves.
Seniors without family support can soon turn to social workers to help manage their finances if they lose the ability to make decisions for themselves. PHOTO: ST FILE

MSF pilot project targets elderly folk who have lost ability to make decisions and do not have family support

Seniors without family support can soon turn to social workers to help manage their finances if they lose the ability to make decisions for themselves.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has introduced the Community Kin Service pilot project, where social workers with voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) may apply to the Family Justice Courts for powers to manage the finances of seniors under their care. The courts will then approve regular payments for the seniors' healthcare needs and household expenses, with MSF backing such court applications.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said yesterday: "The Community Kin Service allows VWOs to help fill the role that a next of kin would typically play in supporting a senior."

The MSF said in a statement that the pilot project will cover seniors who are 60 and above, have no family support and show signs of a declining ability to make decisions for themselves.

Two VWOs - Touch Community Services and AMKFSC Community Services - have been chosen for the pilot that starts early next year.

The MSF was unable to say how many seniors could potentially benefit from the scheme.

PROVIDING LEGAL AUTHORITY

The social workers now take care of the seniors' medical and social needs. Some of the seniors also turned to us for help in managing their finances. But currently we cannot do that because we are not authorised to do so.

MS JULIA LEE, senior director at Touch Community Services, on how the new scheme will help its social workers.


PLANS FOR STREAMLINING

The MSF is talking to the courts on how the process (of court applications) can be more streamlined. Our objective is not to create more work.

MR NG KOON SING, head of senior services at AMKFSC Community Services, on how the process needs to be simplified.

Touch said about 350 of the 7,000 seniors under its care are gradually losing the ability to make decisions for themselves, while AMKFSC estimated that 100 of the 1,000 seniors under its care may have dementia.

Ms Julia Lee, senior director at Touch, said the new scheme is an extension of what the VWO's social workers are already doing to help the seniors under their care.

"The social workers now take care of the seniors' medical and social needs. Some of the seniors also turned to us for help in managing their finances," she said. "But currently we cannot do that because we are not authorised to do so."

Mr Ng Koon Sing, head of senior services at AMKFSC Community Services, said the process of applying for the court order needs to be simplified for VWOs.

"The MSF is talking to the courts on how the process (of court applications) can be more streamlined. Our objective is not to create more work," he said.

Minister Lee, who was speaking at the first Asian Family Conference held at Orchard Hotel, said the ministry will run the pilot for "a year or two" before deciding whether to expand it. "As a safeguard, VWOs must provide annual reports to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) to account for the use of funds," he added.

The OPG, which comes under the MSF, runs the Lasting Power of Attorney Scheme under the Mental Capacity Act, which lets people appoint a "donee" or "deputy" in advance to take care of legal decisions should they lose their mental ability to do so.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2017, with the headline 'Social workers can get powers to manage seniors' finances'. Print Edition | Subscribe