Coronavirus: Task force on family violence plans to step up support amid circuit breaker measures

The task force is aware that individuals and families may experience more stress during these times which could lead to violence. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The inter-agency task force addressing violence within families is looking to strengthen support for spouses facing abuse at home, especially amid the extended circuit breaker period.

In a joint statement on Thursday (April 23), the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the task force is aware that individuals and families may experience more stress during these times which could lead to violence.

It urged those experiencing family violence to come forward and seek help by calling hotlines run by MSF and its partners, and encouraged family members and members of the public to report cases of family violence.

"Your prompt action may save lives," the ministries said.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee also addressed the issue of family violence in the light of the Covid-19 outbreak in a Facebook post on Thursday.

He wrote that in the past two weeks or so, MSF has received more referrals and inquiries related to domestic conflicts than before the start of the circuit breaker period. This increase could be due to heightened vigilance and reporting, as more members of the public are aware of the risk of domestic violence.

"We are thankful that more people are coming forward early, either to alert us of those who need help, or to seek help themselves. Addressing rising tensions as early as possible is critical," he said.

The task force on family violence held its first meeting via video conferencing on Thursday. It is co-chaired by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim.

It was formed in February and aims to increase public awareness of family violence, and come up with initiatives for victims of family violence.

In the coming months, the task force will study the challenges faced by various groups experiencing violence, and identify ways in which the Government and community partners can empower victims and perpetrators alike to break the cycle of violence, MSF and MHA said.

In order to do so, it will look into holding a series of consultations with social service agencies and non-governmental organisations with experience in family violence services to better understand family violence here. Using these consultations, it hopes to identify areas for improvement and develop initiatives to better support victims of family violence.

MHA and the police will also examine how to better support victims when their cases go into the criminal justice system. This could involve strengthening operational processes, and enhancing protocols between the courts, social service agencies and other stakeholders to ensure that victims receive seamless and timely support.

Ms Sun said: "Family violence is a complex issue that requires a thorough understanding of the stressors, the triggers and the intervention points which often have to involve a whole-of-society approach. We have to be even more vigilant to address family violence issues given the challenges brought about by Covid-19."

Similarly, Associate Professor Faishal said: "During this circuit breaker period, we can and will continue to collectively help families manage stress so that family conflicts do not escalate into violence. The task force will strengthen existing networks, identify gaps and work alongside our stakeholders to co-create and co-deliver solutions that offer more comprehensive, convenient, and coordinated support to these families."

For those who wish to seek help for issues related to family violence, here are the hotlines run by MSF and community partners for violence and abuse:

- Pave Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection Specialist Centre: 6555-0390

- Trans Safe Centre: 6449-9088

- Project Start: 6476-1482

- Big Love Child Protection Specialist Centre: 6445-0400

- Heart @ Fei Yue Child Protection Specialist Centre: 6819-9170

- ComCare hotline: 1800-222-0000

- National Care hotline: 1800-202-6868

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