Budget debate: Victims of family violence to get better protection by end-2022

Social service officers and the community will also be involved to help detect and support victims of family violence. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Victims of family violence will get better support by the end of this year, including emergency social service response for urgent situations and legal provisions to protect survivors from abuse.

Amendments to the Women's Charter that are expected to be announced by the end of this year will take a two-pronged approach - enhancing protection and support for survivors of family violence, as well as rehabilitation for perpetrators.

Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling told Parliament on Thursday (March 10): "While the primary responsibility for complying with rehabilitative court orders lies with the perpetrator, we recognise the importance of strengthening rehabilitative approaches to encourage perpetrators to complete their rehabilitation."

These include provisions to allow the courts to make additional types of orders when a personal protection order (PPO) is issued - such as non-visitation, non-communication and non-access orders - to ensure the safety of victims.

These orders prohibit the perpetrator from visiting or communicating with the victims and from entering and remaining in an area outside the victim's place of residence or any other place frequented by the victim.

Other amendments will enable mandatory assessment and treatment orders for perpetrators with treatable mental health conditions that have worsened the risk of family violence.

Ms Sun added: "To enhance the safety of survivors, we will implement a more structured referral system for social service professionals, so perpetrators may be provided shelter if they require accommodation. We will study the feasibility of a mandatory structured residential programme for the rehabilitation of high-risk perpetrators."

The maximum penalties for breaches of PPOs will also be increased.

Currently, those who breach a PPO may be fined $2,000 or jailed for up to six months if the order does not relate to a vulnerable adult.

In cases where victims of family violence do not apply for a PPO themselves because of fear or the influence of perpetrators, the upcoming amendments will empower the authorities to apply for PPOs for them without their consent in high-risk circumstances.

Forensic-trained psychologists will also be deployed to community-based family violence specialist centres by the end of this year, where they will address trauma and mental health concerns as well as engage in safety planning, among other moves.

Social service officers and the community will also be involved to help detect and support victims of family violence.

Last year, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) conducted training for more than 1,100 people across the public, private and social sectors to equip them with knowledge on the different types and forms of abuse and neglect, ways to detect violence early, and how to respond appropriately. 

In October last year, the Government accepted all the recommendations by a family violence task force that were proposed in a report released in September. 

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said the measures would be rolled out over the next one to three years, with three of them implemented first: raising awareness of the issue, enhancing marriage preparation courses and beefing up the National Anti-Violence Helpline (NAVH).

Since last month, family and domestic violence awareness training has been made compulsory for social service office staff and volunteers who are involved in ComLink, a social support initiative for families with children living in Housing Board rental flats.

To promote community awareness about family violence, MSF relaunched the Break the Silence campaign last year. The campaign, which was first started in 2016, provides information on what observers can do if they come across family violence.

People can also call the NAVH on 1800-777-0000 if someone they know is experiencing violence.

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