Inter-agency task force formed to tackle the problem of family violence

The task force will be co-chaired by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

SINGAPORE - A new inter-agency task force has been set up to address the problem of violence within families, giving better support to victims.

Co-chaired by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, the task force aims to increase public awareness of the issue, and come up with initiatives such as a dedicated national hotline for victims of family violence.

This comes against the backdrop of increasingly violent family abuse cases, with victims reporting more acts of violence in their applications for personal protection orders.

Last year, for example, victims reported 4,224 types of violence in the 2,452 applications for personal protection orders filed against their family members. Each applicant can indicate up to four different types of violence committed against them in their application, including wrongful confinement, continual harassment, placing a person in fear of hurt, or knowingly causing hurt.

The figure in 2019 was a 21 per cent jump from the 3,497 types of violence reported in 2016, despite the higher number of personal protection orders filed that year. There were 2,811 applications for personal protection orders filed in 2016

"It is clear that we will need to do more together - be it lowering barriers to seeking help, or furthering coordination, both within Government and with our community partners," said Ms Sun on Monday (Feb 17). She was speaking at an event at Pave, which specialises in family violence.

The task force will work on allowing family violence victims access to the Home Team Community Assistance and Referral Scheme (Cares).

Under Home Team Cares, social workers stationed at police divisions assess what type of intervention is required for offenders, and refer them to suitable agencies for help in different areas, such as financial assistance or counselling sessions. It was piloted in January last year at the Bedok Police Division and police are looking to extend the scheme to all divisions.

Ms Sun said there was potential for family violence victims to benefit from having similar access to social assistance.

"This means that in the future, when police investigate a family violence case, Home Team Cares officers will also support the victims in such cases, and triage and refer them to appropriate agencies for help," she said, adding that officials hope to roll this out by the end of the year.

The task force is also looking into conducting more research and public education on family violence. Additionally, it is exploring the possibility of a one-stop dedicated national hotline against abuse and violence.

There are currently several hotlines for family abuse victims to call for help, but these are fronted by various organisations that tackle family violence, such as Pave.

This one-stop hotline would make it easier for victims of all kinds of abuse and violence to seek and receive help, Ms Sun added.

"Our goal is to work towards a Singapore where everyone has a safe and loving home to go home to. Together, we can break the silence, and stop the violence," she said.

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