Vulnerable Adults Act to include protection for self-neglect cases

SINGAPORE - A new law that will be introduced later this year to protect vulnerable adults will not only cover adults abused by family members, but also individuals who are unable to care for themselves, said Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing.

"The new legislation being drawn up will go beyond cases of abuse and neglect by third parties to self-neglect cases in which people can't care for themselves or inflict harm on themselves," said Mr Chan, at a Family Violence conference at the Singapore Expo on Thursday.

These self-neglect cases include instances when a vulnerable adult fails to provide essential care for himself.

This could lead to self-harm, such as not feeding, clothing or seeking medical attention for themselves adequately.

It can be intentional or unintentional. One such example is of a person who has lost his mental capacity.

The new act will protect persons aged 18 years and above who are incapable of protecting themselves from harm due to mental or physical incapacity or disability. It will complement other key pieces of legislation used for family violence cases such as the Children and Young Persons Act and the Mental Capacity Act.

While there are not many of such cases now, Mr Chan said it is crucial to develop the legal framework to tackle such cases as they are expected to increase significantly with an ageing population.

The new law will give social workers and other professionals, such as lawyers or doctors, powers to enter the house of a suspected victim to assess the case and remove the person to a place of safety.

Mr Chan emphasised that the law should always be used as a last resort.

"We will need to work together to develop a common understanding of when we should intervene and what sort of intervention we must do together," he said.

jantai@sph.com.sg