Outreach efforts stepped up amid more reports of family violence

Ms Sun Xueling also announced that MSF is partnering Unity pharmacies to detect signs and symptoms of family violence. PHOTO: ST FILE

More people are reporting possible incidents of family violence as the Government ramps up efforts to raise awareness and detection of the issue, including training pharmacy staff to detect signs of abuse in customers.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF) Adult and Child Protective services saw a 25 per cent increase in the monthly average number of inquiries post-circuit breaker, in the months of June to September, compared with during April and May.

Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State for Social and Family Development as well as Education, said the increase in inquiries is in part due to members of the public being more vigilant in reporting possible incidents.

But she noted that the number of incidents investigated from January to September this year remains at a monthly average of 118.

Speaking at the National Family Violence Networking System Conference held virtually yesterday, Ms Sun also announced that MSF is partnering Unity pharmacies to detect signs and symptoms of family violence.

It will train 46 staff of the FairPrice-owned chain, which has more than 60 stores around the country.

Unity pharmacists will undergo training today to better identify possible victims of family violence.

"This can help widen and strengthen our community detection efforts and provide additional touchpoints to direct potential victims to help channels," said Ms Sun, addressing about 500 experts and practitioners from various sectors, who also discussed collaborative approaches to family protection at the conference.

Besides the partnership with Unity, MSF has partnered religious organisations such as the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore and the Presbyterian Church in Singapore to conduct training on family violence awareness.

Ms Sun said the ministry is also working with businesses to conduct outreach on the topic.

During the extended circuit breaker, which started in April, the newly formed inter-agency task force on family violence noted that individuals and families may be experiencing more stress, which could lead to violence.

Said Ms Sun: "While there has been great emphasis on how Covid-19 has impacted our work, we must recognise that the issue of family violence goes beyond the Covid-19 pandemic."

The task force, which was formed in February, held its first focus group discussion virtually in August, with more than 40 community partners coming together to discuss tackling family violence beyond Covid-19.

"Some of the facts and areas that have been discussed relate to the importance of looking at family structures, living environments, financial stressors and also the ability of individuals to manage conflict," Ms Sun said.

A second focus group discussion is being planned for the first quarter of next year.

"We will be taking a deeper dive into some of these topics that have been raised. What's important is that we look at upstream factors, because we want to prevent violence before it occurs."

The co-chairmen of the focus group workstream - United Women Singapore president Georgette Tan, Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO) head of direct services Lorraine Lim and Casa Raudha Women Home manager Zaharah Ariff - also attended the conference.

They shared their organisations' initiatives to tackle family violence.

United Women Singapore has a GenSafe Workplaces programme, meant to support employees who may be victims of abuse. The non-profit organisation will be conducting a foundational programme for interested managerial staff from EtonHouse International Education Group next month. If well-received, the company will open sign-ups to all its 750 staff.

The Workplaces programme aims to support employees impacted by domestic violence by, among other things, equipping organisations with the skills to respond to those suffering in silence.

Said Ms Tan: "In the coming year, we hope to reach out to another 100 businesses in Singapore, ranging from finance to pharmaceutical to technology and consumer industries."

Next Monday, SCWO will be launching a one-stop help website, ACT Against Violence, to provide information to women of all ages coping with violence, while Casa Raudha is currently holding a week-long walkathon that began on Saturday to raise awareness of domestic violence.

Correction note: This article has been updated for accuracy.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2020, with the headline Outreach efforts stepped up amid more reports of family violence. Subscribe