Positive feedback for move to ensure more protection for the vulnerable: MSF

Elderly men sitting under a covered walkway at Circuit Road.
Elderly men sitting under a covered walkway at Circuit Road. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said it received strong support for the proposed Vulnerable Adults Bill, citing responses from a public consultation.

The Bill, which was first mooted in January last year, aims to better protect the elderly as well as adults who are unable to care for themselves against possible abuse and neglect.

Key areas in the Bill include giving the State the right to enter private premises to assess the person's well-being, as well as to temporarily relocate vulnerable adults to safe places such as sheltered homes or adult disability homes.

The ministry said in a press release on Friday (Sept 9) it received 43 responses during the public consultation on the proposed Bill which was held from July 27 to Aug 23.

Most responses support the decision for the Government to intervene in high-risk cases where vulnerable adults need to be protected from abuse, neglect and self-neglect.

Many feel that the Bill complemented the roles played by the family and community, but some believe that the Government should not take over the role of the family in caring for the vulnerable adults.

Some also commented that the State should be involved in a wider range of cases, while others cautioned that State powers should not be left unchecked.

MSF acknowledged these as valid concerns, pointing out that checks and balances have been put in place.

For instance, those who have mental capacity must give their consent to State interventions involving removal and out-of-home placements. They may also decide not to receive help.

Respondents also voiced support for enhanced penalties for offences committed against vulnerable adults. "This is reflective of our society's strong disapproval of such behaviours," said MSF.

The four-week public consultation saw feedback from the Family Service Centres, Law Society of Singapore, Singapore Medical Council, Families for Life Council and gender equality advocacy group Aware.

MSF Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said in a blog post that there can be a transformative effect when everyone play a part to care for one another.

"Our families see us at our best and worst, through our joys and sorrow. They share with us their successes and happiness, and are always our first line of support whenever we need help," he wrote.

"And by extension, there can be a transformative effect when we all play a part to care for one another. With strong families and strong communities, we can help each better, and earlier."