More support, training for caregivers and deputies

A caregiver could turn to an online training course to better understand their roles and obligations.
A caregiver could turn to an online training course to better understand their roles and obligations.PHOTO: ST FILE

Caregivers of people who have lost their mental capacity could get help to better understand their roles and obligations.

For instance, they could turn to an online training course, a recommendation made by a review committee as the population ages, and more elderly people lose their mental capacity through illnesses such as dementia.

This is one of the key areas covered by the Committee to Review and Enhance Reforms in the Family Justice System that the Government will review, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said yesterday.

The committee also suggested that the application process to become a deputy be made simpler and more affordable.

A deputy is a court-appointed individual granted specific powers to make decisions for the benefit and welfare of the person who lacks mental capacity, in areas such as personal needs and financial affairs.

A court-sanctioned deputy is needed if the person did not give lasting power of attorney to a trusted person before becoming mentally incapacitated.

The committee recommended training and support for appointed and prospective deputies through an e-learning programme broken down into manageable modules with assessments.

Mr Leonard Lee, executive director of the Community Justice Centre that provides social and legal support, said such training would be useful.

"A challenge for deputies is that they are unsure of the extent of their power, such as how much money they can draw out of bank accounts belonging to the person without mental capacity to support the person," he said.


Simpler applications are also welcome as the current process is long and tedious, said Mr Lee.

The committee also recommended the use of counselling and mediation to resolve disputes and better support deputies who may face caregiver stress.

Also proposed was the enhancement of the Office of the Public Guardian's supervision of deputies so that appropriate intervention can be undertaken for challenging cases.

The recommendations are timely as the population ages and the culture towards care-giving changes, said Mr Lee.

"In the past, no one would talk about deputyship. When a parent grew old, the child would just have to take care of them.

"Nowadays, we encourage more people to sign a letter of attorney. But as the older generation who might not believe in such things age, we might see more caregivers apply for deputyship," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2019, with the headline 'More support, training for caregivers and deputies'. Print Edition | Subscribe