Protecting vulnerable adults needs community support

We thank Mr Jeffrey Law Lee Beng for his support for the Vulnerable Adults Bill and his call for clarity on what constitutes abuse and neglect (Clarifying what constitutes abuse, neglect will make Bill effective; May 26).

The Vulnerable Adults Bill defines key terms such as abuse and neglect.

Abuse includes behaviour that causes physical pain or injury through harmful acts such as beating, pushing, choking or forcing individuals to engage in sexual activity.

Neglect occurs when individuals do not receive essential care, such as food or medical aid, to the extent that they consequently suffer physical or mental injury.

The Bill also sets out the guiding principles for when the State can intervene.

For example, the exercise of statutory powers must be for the purpose of protecting vulnerable adults from abuse and neglect.

This is balanced against the consideration that where a vulnerable adult has mental capacity, he is generally best placed to decide how he wishes to live, and whether or not to accept assistance.

As Mr Law has rightly pointed out, caregivers can face tremendous stress caring for vulnerable family members.

Where the caregivers are willing, assistance, such as the Caregiver Training Grant, is available to support them by enhancing their caregiving skills.

There are also respite care options to allow caregivers to rest and recover, in order to continue caring for the adult.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will continue to work closely with community stakeholders to identify vulnerable adults, and support them and their caregivers.

Effective protection of vulnerable adults hinges on public awareness of what constitutes abuse and neglect.

MSF launched the "Break the Silence" campaign to urge bystanders to interrupt and report family violence.

Information that describes vulnerable adult abuse and neglect is also available.

Members of the public who suspect abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult should alert a Family Violence Specialist Centre or call the ComCare hotline on 1800-222-0000.

Ngo Lee Yian (Ms)

Director Adult Protective Service

Rehabilitation and Protection Group

Ministry of Social and Family Development

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2018, with the headline 'Protecting vulnerable adults needs community support'. Print Edition | Subscribe