The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has launched an integrated helpline to report family violence, as well as cases of abuse and neglect.
The National Anti-Violence Helpline (NAVH) has been taking calls since Jan 18. It will operate round the clock throughout the year, making it easier for victims of violence and abuse to seek help. The NAVH number is 1800-777-0000. In its first month of operation, the helpline received about 450 calls.
Minister of State for Social and Family Development, and Education, Ms Sun Xueling, who attended the formal launch at the MSF Call Centre in Tampines yesterday, said the issue of family violence needed to be tackled urgently.
But there were different hotlines maintained by different community partners. She said: "We felt there was a need to pull the different hotlines together into one consolidated helpline so that people who are looking for help know that there is one place they can go to."
With the stress on families caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Ms Sun said, more calls were made last year to the various helplines dealing with family violence.
They had 40 per cent more calls between January and October than in the same period in 2019.
Ms Sun said the number of new cases investigated by Child Protective Service (CPS) and Adult Protective Service (APS) between January and October last year stayed stable at an average of 120 cases a month. She added: "Regardless, we still feel it's important that we coordinate our efforts to tackle family violence effectively."
The helpline is manned by DHL customer service officers and social service professionals from Montfort Care, who provide customised support such as assessing the severity of each case, providing basic psychosocial support and referring each caller to appropriate channels and agencies.
An MSF spokesman said DHL customer service officers are also proficient in managing general inquiries, given that they have been managing MSF helplines, such as for ComCare and the Baby Bonus, for several years.
Both the social service professionals from Montfort Care and DHL customer service officers underwent training with MSF's CPS and APS in how to respond to family violence victims in need.
The NAVH operates primarily in English, with Mandarin, Malay and Tamil options available if needed.
DHL's customer service officers respond to a call, addressing general inquiries before referring any reports of violence to a Montfort Care social service professional.
Helpline supervisor Tan Si Yin, 30, said the NAVH allowed her to contact victims she would otherwise not have been able to advise in person.
She recalled a call by a member of the public who was concerned about a child's frequent crying and screaming in a neighbouring unit.
Said Ms Tan: "After gathering information from her, we were able to identify the family and get our community partners to reach out to them. We appreciate members of the public giving us a call to share their concerns with us in such cases as it gives us a chance to detect issues early."