Welfare staff to be stationed at every police division

Cares officers from voluntary welfare organisations will help to assess if offenders need help, such as financial aid or counselling, under a new initiative to tackle the deeper causes of crime.
Cares officers from voluntary welfare organisations will help to assess if offenders need help, such as financial aid or counselling, under a new initiative to tackle the deeper causes of crime.PHOTO: SINGAPORE PRISON SERVICE

Staff from voluntary welfare organisations will help to assess if offenders need help, such as financial aid or counselling, under a new initiative to tackle the deeper causes of crime.

These Cares officers - as they are known - will be stationed at each of the six police divisions here. When they come across an offender who needs help, they can refer them to a suitable agency for help and follow-up.

The Home Team Community Assistance and Referral Scheme, or HT Cares, was announced by Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam yesterday in Parliament.

"Often when dealing with individuals who have committed offences, our officers become aware of the other problems and the complex circumstances surrounding them," he said.

He said some may have health issues. Some struggle to make ends meet, while others have problems with their families.

While investigators tackle the "crime-solving", Cares officers will look into the social interventions needed to address underlying problems that lead to crime, be it counselling, mental health aid or financial aid, the minister said.

He said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is studying the initiative with the Ministry of Social and Family Development and will pilot it at a police division this year.

MHA is also expanding the Appropriate Adults (AA) Scheme, in which trained volunteers accompany suspects during police interviews to provide support.

The scheme was started in 2013 for persons with intellectual disabilities or mental health problems. It was expanded to cover suspects under age 16 last year after Benjamin Lim, 14, was found dead in 2016 at the foot of the block where he lived after being questioned by the police over an alleged molestation case.

From next month, the AA scheme for young suspects will be extended to more police and Central Narcotics Bureau units, and also include Customs and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.

Last year, volunteers supported about 700 interviews during the course of investigations.

Yesterday, Mr Amrin Amin, Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs, also announced more help to enhance the employability of former offenders, including extended support from a job coach and the use of a jobs profiling tool.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2018, with the headline 'Welfare staff to be stationed at every police division'. Print Edition | Subscribe